U.S. — U.S. President Donald Trump greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House Oval Office in Washington, April 27, 2018

By Polygraph

Igor Morozov

Senator, Russian Council of Federation

“The media in Germany is largely dependent on their owners in the United States. Today, none of the chief editors of leading media organizations can be appointed to the position unless they have completed a half-year internship in the American media outlets.”


German media owners and journalists dispute the claim

Russian Senator Igor Morozov’s comments regarding the “U.S. control over leading German media outlets” come as part of a report claiming that Germany has “lost its sovereignty” to the United States.

The piece was published by the “Federal News Agency” – an outlet that is reportedly part of the Internet Research Agency or the troll factory, owned by Concord Management and Consulting LLC. The firm is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef,” who is indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for interference in the presidential election in 2016.

Although Senator Morozov made his claim with no evidence, it is quite possible to verify that his assertions are wrong. We looked at whether the German media is under the control of “U.S. owners” and that the U.S. sets the conditions for the selection of chief editors of “leading media.”

Russian Senator Igor Morozov's profile, Russian International Affairs Council
Russian Senator Igor Morozov’s profile, Russian International Affairs Council

German law does not limit or prohibit foreign ownership of the media.

However, foreign ownership is a minor factor in the German media market.

According to the Bilanz, a German language business magazine published in Zurich, Switzerland, the top major media owners in Germany are:

  • Friede Springer, Axel Springer Verlag, Berlin;
  • Bauer Family, Bauer Media, Hamburg;
  • Alexander, Marc and Oliver Samwer, Rocket Internet, Berlin;
  • Ralph Dommermuth, United Internet, Montabaur;
  • Hubert Burda Family, Hubert Burda Media, Munich;
  • Jahr Gruner Family, Hamburg;
  • Liz Mohn Family, Bertelsmann, Gutersloh;
  • Johannes Mohn Family, Bertelsmann, Gutersloh;
  • Stefan von Holtzbrinck and Monika Schoeller, Georg von Holtzbrinck-Gruppe, Stuttgart;
  • Dieter Schaub, Media Union, Ludwigshafen.

“There are no American players in the German media market because simply there are no Americans,” Manfred Quiring, a media expert and author of series of books on Russia told Polygraph.info.

“These claims of the Russian Senator Igor Morozov, an ex-KGB/FSB officer are completely rubbish and absurd,” Quiring said, pointing out, “even the Kremlin’s own media debunk Senator Morozov’s claim in a recent report by Sputnik in German language complaining that three family clans in Germany control the information.”

“These claims of the Russian Senator Igor Morozov, an ex-KGB/FSB officer are completely rubbish and absurd,”

According to the Pressreference.com, “The only newspapers that can claim to be national in reach are Bild, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Frankfurter Rundschau and Tageszeitung.”

Two of these, Die Bild and Die Welt, are owned by the German company Alex Springer Group – the largest digital publishing house in Europe that apart from numerous German language publications owns the English language outlet Politico, based in Brussels, and the news web portal Business Insider.

“I have never heard of this policy. It is definitely not practiced at Axel Springer. We are invested in the U.S. media market (e.g. BUSINESS INSIDER) but we do not have a major U.S. stakeholder, although of course, being a publicly listed company, we have U.S. shareholders,” Edda Fels, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at the Axel Springer SE told Polygraph.info via email responding to the Russian senator’s statement.

“The German media is independent from the U.S. As about the chief editors – that claim is laughable,”

Another press outlet in the Pressreference.com list is Die Tageszeitung – a cooperative-owned daily newspaper administrated by its employees.

“The German media is independent from the U.S. As about the chief editors – that claim is laughable,” Klaus-Helge Donath, the chief of the Moscow bureau of Die Tageszeitung told Polygraph.info.

Sonja Volkmann-Schluck, Press Officer at the German Press Council said, “The statement of Mr Morozov is wrong. There is absolutely no precondition for editors in chief to complete any internship in American media outlets.”

So our verdict relies on fact, not assertion, in finding the senator’s claim is false.

By Polygraph