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Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the presentation of the Handbook of the German Press Abroad

21.11.2012

-- Translation of advance text --

Mr Lindemann,
Mr 
Akstinat,
Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The Handbook of the German Press Abroad produced by International Media Help, the Stiftung Verbundenheit mit den Deutschen im Ausland and the Association for German Cultural Foreign Relations, with the support of the Federal Foreign Office, is an exciting premiere. You have listed more than 2000 German publications appearing regularly in almost 100 countries and produced an impressive collection spanning more than 300 pages.

This is the first time such a directory of the German-language press abroad has been produced. That is quite amazing when you call to mind that German is one of the most-spoken languages abroad. Some 100 million people speak German as their mother tongue, while in the EU German is the most-spoken language with some 14.5 million people learning German as a foreign language.

These German native speakers and those who have learnt German do of course feature in the media landscape of their respective home or host countries. They are targeting the German speakers amongst the local population and Germans who are spending time abroad but also people who are interested in Germany – language-learners and other students, entrepreneurs, those working in authorities and others.

German-language print media abroad thus play an important role. They are a medium in two senses, as a means of communication, like all media products, but also as a bridge-builder between countries and cultures. They focus on the host country from a German angle and report about Germany looking from the outside.

They therefore embody an approach which we now consider normal in our cultural relations and education policy, that is, the German angle on the ground, adapted to suit regional idiosyncrasies. In the many regular publications which appear in this handbook, this practice will be more or less pronounced depending on the target audience.

What is more, these newspapers, magazines and journals of course also serve a wholly practical function as a link between German speakers abroad, a guide for tourists and entrepreneurs and as a source of local news.

But as I said, they are of course all media, that is mediators, in both meanings of the word as on the one hand they convey an image of Germany or German-speaking countries to the outside world and on the other hand an image of the outside world to German-speakers.

The handbook provides the first A-Z directory of the diverse German-language press landscape.

You, the publishers of the directory, have of course also made plain that it is not just a question of quantity. You also wanted quality as well as recognition for the German-language media products abroad, many of which have been in circulation for decades.

You found fitting expression for this by launching the media prize which was awarded this year for the first time by the Stiftung Verbundenheit mit den Deutschen im Ausland.

High-quality print media help bolster Germany’s image abroad, something which is important to all of us. A positive and realistic image of our country abroad is indispensable if we are to convince people around the world of our values and ideas.

We are only able to convince if we are understood and there can be no understanding without knowledge. Communication and dialogue are thus key components of our foreign policy.

The circulation of German-language press products is of course limited given the linguistic barriers, and the number of users is in fact falling.

This is on the one hand the result of developments on the ground but also the fruit of global trends. The availability of global information and communication is on the up.

Print copies of German magazines and even daily newspapers are available in many parts of the world but online versions are theoretically available worldwide.

At the same time, communication is shifting increasingly to social networks in which geographical distances barely play a role. So we need to ask ourselves where the future lies for our German-language media abroad.

As the handbook rightly indicates, German-language media abroad do not need a government agency as a contact point. Advice or even steering from government quarters does not create a readership. That is the job of the media themselves. Promoting the German language does however remain a core task of cultural relations and education policy, a task to which I am dedicated.

I am convinced there is a place for German-language media in the respective countries and regions.

The form in which they appear will probably change and they will have to keep shifting to match the profile of their target audience.

The handbook – perhaps also an Internet-based version – is a good springboard for giving these kinds of trends the attention they deserve.

I would therefore like to congratulate those who initiated this valuable contribution which helps promote links with Germans living abroad.

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