Germany’s largest public broadcaster admits ‘too little Russian interests’ in Ukraine coverage

Germany’s largest public broadcaster admits ‘too little Russian interests’ in Ukraine coverage
The chief director of ARD, Germany's largest public TV broadcaster, responded to viewers' criticism and the supervisory committee over its coverage of the Ukraine crisis. He said it conveyed Russian interests “too little” and could question NATO more.

Kai Gniffke, the TV channel's editor-in-chief, published a statement on his blog on Tuesday, stating: “Maybe we have conveyed too little of Russian interests to the German viewers. We could possibly have examined the position of NATO even more critically.”

Speaking on the war in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Islamic State, Gniffke said “it is only now that the powder fume over Ukraine has shred away.” He added that “mainstream news issues” have “too easily” diverted the attention of editors.

ARD's comment has long been awaited, as the Advisory Council voiced its concerns over the “biased” Ukraine coverage at a meeting on June 24. But the leaked document was made public only three months later, revealed by online magazine Telepolis.

One of the main concerns, presented by a group of nine advisers, was that the channel’s talk shows “had a tendency to narrate against Russia and the Russian position.” The reasoning for the concern was not only the reports of ordinary viewers, but also a thorough analysis of several ARD reports on the developments in Ukraine, starting from the end of 2013.

A sunflower is pictured near a piece of wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine September 9, 2014 (Reuters / Marko Djurica)

Among 10 accusations of the channel, named “boiling points,” the Council voiced concern that the ARD passed over in silence NATO’s intentions of the expansion to the East. It also mentioned that the channel failed to question the legitimacy of the Maidan-imposed authorities in Kiev.

The elected representatives of political parties and associations believed the ARD management ignored the lawfulness of the Crimean referendum, having never investigated it or its history. What is more, mass protests of the Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine, based on their rejection of the coup-imposed government, were apparently underreported.

On Wednesday, ARD TV channel withdrew its May 20 “Daily news” story from its archive, and correspondent Udo Lielischkies corrected his report. It entailed the deaths of two residents of the eastern Ukrainian town of Krasnoarmeysk. The reporter back then put the blame on the “bullets of the new rulers,” referring to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. However, a review of the facts has shown it was Kiev’s military volunteers, DPA news agency reported.

“We take the mistake very seriously,” Gniffke said. He added that “it is not good, but we do it also to maintain the trust of the viewers.”

READ MORE: ‘Freedom of speech in Russia, not here!’ German TV mocks Western media’s Ukraine coverage

Another German TV channel – ZDF, which has also been criticized by its viewers for inaccurate reporting – has lately tried to get off the hook by mocking Western media’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis.

The black-and-white parody presented a German general in the times of World War I, who had to cope with the recent developments in Ukraine. The massacre in Odessa, the MH17 tragedy, the Russian aid convoy – these were the events he tried to get across to an editor of a fictional newspaper, probably inspired by the work of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.