How German may one sing?

German-language pop music has never been more popular. A young generation of musicians has begun to approach its own country and language with much less self-consciousness than earlier generations.

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Author: Kirsten Kummer
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The public has opened its arms in gratitude, but critics are raising their voices: In Germany, can all topics be viewed as harmless and fit for singing about in German, even if "only" for entertainment? This segment talks to musicians, critics and scholars about a subject causing intense controversy in Germany.

For some time now, Germany has been considering a radio quota for German-language music and music produced in Germany. A "radio quota" is a regulation dictating the percentages of specific types of programming on radio stations. In France, for example, there is a ratio regulation which prescribes the proportion of foreign-language to native-language music (60:40).

Back in 2002, the CSU (Christian Social Union) political party demanded that the French model be transferred to Germany, and the Bavarian State Government eventually introduced a legislative initiative which sparked intense discussions among all parties. Proponents argue that the law would provide greater musical variety on the radio and thus serve to enrich the culture. Another advantage would be the opportunity to give new trends a chance on the radio; even unknown bands and performers would have a chance to land a hit. This, in turn, would serve to stimulate the German music industry. Further, nationally popular German artists would have the possibility of being played during the best broadcasting times - nowadays, prime broadcasting times are for the most part occupied by US stars.

Opponents, however, see quotas as a major encroachment on the constitutional freedoms of radio broadcasting and as an excessive regulatory restriction on market. In addition, the regulation of music and art in a modern, pluralistic society is seen as a highly questionable activity. A ministerial conference decided against a binding quota for radio broadcasters in 2003.

In the fall of 2004, approximately 500 German musicians entered the debate. The initiative, Musiker in eigener Sache ("Musicians Want to be Heard"), again demanded a German radio quota and made sure that the subject was debated in the Lower House of the German Parliament. In December 2004 the Lower House finally passed a resolution calling for voluntary self-regulation by radio broadcasters: about 35 percent of the pop or rock music broadcast should be either German-language or made-in-Germany, and half of that should be new releases or up-and-coming musicians. In addition, the voluntary self-regulation by radio broadcasters could be arranged on an ad hoc basis. An actual regulation of quotas would only be possible at the state level. But the debate continues. During the first meeting of the opponents within the music industry in 2005, the initiative "I Can't Relax in Deutschland" was started, founded on the fear that the real reason behind the demand for more German-language music could be nationalistic tendencies.
Goethe-Institut e. V. 2006
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