NEUSTART: Shaping the Post-Covid Media Order

Thursday, 17 September 2020, Orangery Palace at Sanssouci, An der Orangerie 3-5, 14469 Potsdam


As if through a magnifying glass, the Corona crisis has revealed to us the seemingly irreconcilable simultaneity of two developments that have shaped digitalization from the beginning. First, the state of emergency has demonstrated that journalists too, like our doctors, nurses and supermarket employees, are essential workers . Social media cannot serve as a substitute for professional, editorially organized journalism. Second, though the institutions producing journalism of this nature have achieved record-breaking reach, they are universally experiencing existential crisis. Media companies worldwide are suffering from the effects of the worst recession in a century. According to a study by the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), local newspapers in 40% of all cities and municipalities in Germany are at risk of going out of business within the next five years. All of this is taking place against the background of digitalization, which promotes innovation and diversity, but is also producing a massive concentration of economic and media power in the hands of the U.S.-based platforms.

In many places, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II also means 75 years of media freedom, and of journalism in the service of democracy. But the quality and diversity of journalistic information we have grown used to, which we now regard as cultural and democratic normality, should by no means be taken for granted. Indeed, viewed from either the historical or international perspective, these are rare characteristics indeed. The economic basis for journalism is eroding, media structures are breaking down, and autocrats and populists are exploiting the crisis to attack the independent press. Attacks on “unpatriotic” reporting and abuses of emergency rules and laws on misinformation are endangering media freedom.

At the same time, the media are facing considerable societal pressure. While portions of the population prefer conspiracy theories and fake news even in times of pandemic, the controversies around newsroom and reporting diversity are gaining further momentum in the course of the racism debate in the United States.

Covid-19 marks a historic turning point. The pandemic is changing our societies, our economies and our media landscapes. Reflection on the time to come, particularly with regard to the issues of sustainability and social coexistence, is in full swing. This is reason enough to ask what kind of media landscape we want to shape in our future democratic societies – and what we can do today to help bring about this outcome. Against this background, the goal of this year’s M100 Sanssouci Colloquium is to develop the basic principles for a new media order. In addition, a first assessment will be drawn regarding journalism’s role and performance during the global Corona crisis.

M100 is an initiative of Potsdam Media International e.V. in conceptional collaboration with the Institute for Media and Communication (IfM) and is mainly financed by the State Capital of Potsdam. Other supporters include the medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, National Endowment for Democracy, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Press Office. Cooperation partners include the Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten, Reporters Without Borders and the Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger e.V. (VDZ).