German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF see Facebook as an important information and communication platform and reject the demand by cable operator association FRK to leave the social media network in view of the latest data scandal and the unclear exploitation of user data.
“The questions concerning Facebook are also critically discussed within the ARD network in which the affiliate broadcasters operate largely autonomously. And this has not only been the case since the beginning of the most recent data scandal,” ARD explained in a statement to Broadband TV News. “In general, it can be said that ARD – like other ‘classic’ media – has by no means made Facebook big, but rather has only become active following a phase of observing and waiting on platforms of this kind – after Facebook had developed into a relevant platform with millions of users. ARD is guided by the basic idea that we have to ‘pick up’ users with our offers where they are, including platforms such as Facebook. In addition, there is the principle that we must not leave the debates on social media platforms to those who try to manipulate opinions with one-sided content or even agitation – this danger would grow if we were to withdraw in a sudden manner. We see it as our task to objectify debates with professionally researched information and fact-based content.”
“At the same time, the ARD network is working on making its own platforms more attractive in order to offer alternatives that handle user data responsibly in view of the dominance of large US players on the internet. One goal is to get people excited about content beyond Facebook again: for catch-up services, websites and apps,” according to the ARD statement. “The current ARD chairman, BR director Ulrich Wilhelm, has also initiated a debate about a possible joint platform by the public quality content providers with the newspaper and magazine publishers at German or European level. Regardless of this, the ARD network reports in detail on the Facebook data protection scandal in many places and explains how – even if you use Facebook – you can better protect your own profile from access by apps and other services. Exactly this type of content reaches the right audience on Facebook & Co.”
ZDF also defends its commitment to Facebook and rejects an exit. “The Facebook pages of ZDF and its editorial departments are important platforms for the exchange with the public. There are no plans for a withdrawal,” a ZDF spokesman told Broadband TV News. “Independently of this, ZDF takes a critical journalistic approach to Facebook and the current data scandal in its editorial reports.”
Earlier today, FRK called on the public broadcasters to immediately leave Facebook. “ARD and ZDF have been financing the expansion of their reach on Facebook through the public licence fee for years. During this time, they have provided the company with millions of user data of their viewers while nobody knows how they are exploited and who uses them in the end. It is not acceptable that Facebook is supported for any longer through the public licence fee and that viewers co-finance the misuse of their own data,” criticised FRK chairman Heinz-Peter Labonte.
Labonte is particularly surprised by the inconsistent behaviour of the public broadcasters: “On one hand, all ARD affiliate stations and ZDF report on the Facebook scandal almost around the clock, while on the other hand they continue tempting their viewers to use Facebook. Even the German Federal Cartel Office now assumes that Facebook is abusing its market power in relation to its customers through the way data from third parties is collected and used.”