Can the public find out who owns the media through free access to the essential information required?
It is possible to find out who owns broadcast media in Germany through the media-specific legislation. Media in Germany are regulated by the 16 federal states (or Länder). Broadcast media are regulated by the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (RStV) which sets out a legal framework that must be used by each of the 14 state media laws which cover the 16 federal states, thus ensuring consistency across Germany. Under these laws, the public can find out who the owners of broadcast media are as all the essential information required to identify ownership is made available both via the media authorities and directly to the public. The KEK (Commission on Concentration in the Media) publishes a lot of information about broadcast media on its website.
In contrast, the print and online media in Germany are largely unregulated; they are not covered by any kind of federal level law or treaty, with the result that only five of the 16 state laws for print media contain any provisions on disclosure of ownership. The provisions that do exist are complicated and unclear meaning that it is not possible to identify ownership of print media in any state.
It is worth noting that all the state press laws contain press-broadcasting cross-ownership rules to prevent what the Constitutional Court has called “double monopolies”. Potential cross-ownership may, therefore, oblige publishing companies disclose their ownership structure in the case of any planned merger.
It is, in theory, possible to find out ownership of publicly-listed companies in Germany but not private ones although the provisions of the German Companies Act (which covers companies listed on the stock exchange) are complicated It is unlikely that a member of the public without some technical understanding would be able to interpret the materials sufficiently to work out who owns the media.
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