Why do conservatives complain about the media

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Critical voices such as in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which sees the 33-year-old as a “wrong role model”, are more of the exception. Not infrequently, criticism of Kurz is perceived as “indecent”, for example in an interview with heute journal: “In any case, there was no lack of embarrassment on the part of Kleber”, Merkur adopted the shitstorm of the audience who had complained that Claus Kleber would have stiffened too much on the failed coalition with the right-wing populist FPÖ. The world called the criticism of the ÖVP boss: "German short-ends". Sebastian Kurz is seen by many as a role model for Germany and especially for the Union. Briefly embodies the "new type of politician, the" political entrepreneur "most successfully at the moment, also because he is open in all directions," writes the head of the Berlin office of the "Zukunftsinstitut", Daniel Dettling, in a guest article for the Tagesspiegel. Ulrich Reitz complains in his column for the Focus that in Germany “popularity too often is denigrated as populism”. "Politicians who pay attention to the moods in the population and serve their need for security and order are quickly seen as right-wing radicals." In order to substantiate this thesis, he brings the editor-in-chief of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Eric Gujer, on board as a neutral key witness, who ultimately has a “different view” of Germany. "Being conservative has become a precursor to extremism in Germany," Gujer is quoted as saying. Criticism? Nothing.

Violations of the freedom of the press

In all articles, one aspect in particular is left out: How the government Kurz dealt with the media. According to “Reporters Without Borders”, Austria slipped several places in the ranking of press freedom during Sebastian Kurz's chancellorship. The violations are numerous. The editor of the Viennese weekly newspaper Falter, Barbara Tóth, was denied access to a background discussion with party leader Sebastian during the election campaign. The party made no effort to disguise its approach. Falter editor-in-chief Florian Klenk wrote on Twitter that his medium was "specifically not invited". An ÖVP employee confirmed this to Tóth. ÖVP general secretary Karl Nehammer then declared: "We are not criminalizing the butterfly, but those who professionally hacked and attacked us from the outside and thus attacked our democracy!" A little Trump has to be.

The reason for the background discussion was research by the Falter. The newspaper had reported that the ÖVP was heavily indebted and kept secret bookkeeping, which concealed campaign spending that was above the campaign cost ceiling. "The accounting records were anonymously sent to us by a whistleblower and we checked them and made public what is in the public interest," says Falter editor Nina Horaczek, co-author of the dossier. The ÖVP rejected this presentation as false and stated that the Falter dossier contained real but also falsified documents. "So far, the ÖVP has not provided any evidence to support its claim," says Nina Horaczek.

However, the moth was not the only medium that was not wanted. TV stations like “Puls 4” and other weekly newspapers or magazines also had to stay outside. "The tendency has increased under the turquoise-blue government," explains Eva Linsinger, Head of Politics at Profil magazine. For example, only selected daily newspapers were invited to the background discussions on the controversial reform of the health insurance funds. Among other things, the standard was excluded because it had reported critically on the reform.

Control of content

Linsinger experiences that newspapers like the Neue Kronen-Zeitung or high-circulation free newspapers like today or oe24 are massively preferred by the turquoise-blue government. Oe24 even operates its own TV channel, where there are regular informal discussions with government representatives, where they can be safe from critical questions. "Members of the government had their say there almost several times a week, while quality media or the ORF had to wait a long time or were simply ignored."

"Kurz and his party are trying to control the type and content of media reporting through message control," says Falter editor Horaczek. Direct inquiries from the media to specialist politicians or ministers were difficult under Kurz. And Sebastian Kurz hovers above everything anyway. “Since he took office in 2017, we have tried several times to get an interview with him, but in vain. The reason was always: This is currently not feasible due to deadline reasons, ”says Horaczek.

The Kurz government also tried to exert influence financially. A procedure that had already been established under the government of Werner Faymann (SPÖ) but was perfected by Kurz. “In Austria, government advertisements play a bigger role than in other countries. It's a barter: friendly reporting for advertisements, ”says Eva Linsinger. One reason is the low press funding, the total budget of which is around nine million euros, which increases the dependency on other sources of income.

The full extent of PR and advertising spending by the black-and-blue government was made public through a parliamentary request. The government ministries spent around 45 million euros on advertising and PR spending in 2018. That is twice as much as the previous government. If you take the advertisements of the state railway and the state road company, which are awarded by the Ministry of Infrastructure, there are even 200 million. But: The advertisements were massively deleted from critical media, the Falter, for example, by 79 percent - right-wing magazines such as Wochenblick, a paper that is close to the FPÖ and the “Identitarian Movement”, benefited from this.

The Kurz government also employed a record number of press, social media and PR people - a staff larger than any editorial team. More and more information packages were offered to the media, some of which were published unchecked. “This should only make the work of the editorial offices superficially easier. The aim is to control the reporting, ”says Linsinger. In the case of the aforementioned reform of the health insurance funds, this led to a reprimand from the press council. The self-regulating body of the Austrian press felt compelled to make an unusual "declaration of principle" and at the end of August 2018 warned the media to "carefully re-check information coming from the government".

“The turquoise-blue government established the principle of message control. That was also possible because the FPÖ has been running its own media empire very successfully for a decade, FPÖ and Sebastian Kurz communicate directly on social media, Facebook, Whatsapp without having to answer annoying questions from annoying journalists, "says Eva Linsinger. This also had an impact on the staging. While Kurz scored points in the 2017 election campaign above all with his “tough crackdown” on migration policy, content in the most recent campaign no longer played a decisive role. It no longer suited his staging as a political pop star who relies on Insta-gram and co.

In order to put himself in the right picture, Kurz had himself photographed during the election campaign as he accepted a blessing prayer from evangelical preacher Ben Fitzgerald in the sold-out Wiener Stadthalle and then shared the pictures on his profile. At the airport, the 1.90-meter tall politician had himself photographed forcing his body into the narrow economy class seats in order to get into a private jet after the photo session and fly away. The story was uncovered by the Falter, the electorate did not care.

The pictures on Instagram usually get by without text messages, the few words he chooses are carefully considered. “Kurz has certain building blocks that he repeats and that people also recognize. He presents himself as a popular fighter against the Viennese establishment, ”explains Eva Linsinger. After the end of the minority government in the spring, Kurz posted pathetically on Facebook: “Parliament has made the decision. The people will decide in September. Can I count on your support? "

The former coalition partner FPÖ also benefited from the media policy: During his tenure, Kurz approved the actions of the Interior Ministry under Heribert Kickl (FPÖ). Its employees had instructed the police stations to restrict communication with unpopular media such as Standard, Courier or Falter “to the bare minimum (legally stipulated) and not to allow them to receive treats such as exclusive escorts”, unless it was “neutral or even positive Reporting guaranteed in advance ”. Shortly afterwards said that the "restriction of freedom of the press is not acceptable", Kickl was still allowed to remain in office. A strategic decision.

Bring the "courier" in line

The former head of the Kurier, Helmut Brandstätter, describes Sebastian Kurz in his book "Kurz & Kickl - Your game with power and fear" as a power man. The attempt to cut off critical media from information was not inconvenient for Kurz. “A clear goal was to create an even more friendly media landscape for the ÖVP. So I soon heard from Kurz around me that 'the courier had to be brought on line'. "

It fits that the real estate speculator René Benko bought the courier. Benko is considered to be Kurz's confidante. His Signa group took over 24.22 percent of the courier and 24.5 percent of the Kronen-Zeitung. Unlike the courier, the latter gave Sebastian Kurz massive support during the election campaign. And two years ago the tabloid had the headline simply and simply in bold letters: "KURZ". Bild, Mercury and Co couldn't have put it better.