Media Educational Social Work in 'Offener Kanal Hamburg' (Public Access Radio and TV Hamburg) - Possibilities and Limitations

Essay, 2003

14 Pages, Grade: 1,0




2.1 “Offener Kanal”
2.2 Media Education in “Offener Kanal”

3.1 Introduction
3.2 What Distinguishes Social Work?
3.3 Media Educational Social Work
3.4 Three Fundamental Target Areas of Media Educational Social Work
3.4.1 Encouraging Participation
3.4.2 Educational Learning Aspect
3.4.3 Promotion of Communicative Competence and Authentic Experience




In this article I will discuss if, and to what extent, media educational social work is practiced in “Offener Kanal Hamburg.” (“Offener Kanal Hamburg” is a high quality public access television channel, monitored by permanently employed editors).

I will begin by describing the role of “Offener Kanal” for media educational work in general. Then I will give a more precise definition of media educational social work – as a part of social work.

I will conclude by determining whether the work of public access channels can be described as media educational social work and I will show the role that “Offener Kanal” plays in the cooperative projects in the area of media educational social work.



Offener Kanal is a local radio and television station that provides free access for everyone. As a public channel its production and broadcasting facilities are free of charge and open to all – on their own responsibility and without censorship.

The first German Offener Kanal went on air in 1984. This was preceded by a nationwide debate on the launch of private and commercial broadcasting. The city of Hamburg was one of the first federal states in Germany to introduce regulations for the privatization of broadcasting. This law also established legal guidelines for a public channel in Hamburg. Funding for Offener Kanal comes from the “Hamburgische Anstalt für neue Medien (HAM),” the city authority responsible for monitoring new media. The formal decision- making authority, responsible for financial decisions or program structure for example, lies in the hands of the authorized representative of HAM for Offener Kanal Hamburg. Within the company itself, responsibilities are delegated and divided up among staff.

Anyone who lives or works in Hamburg and has an idea for a program can broadcast. Responsibility for the content of the programs is entirely in the hands of those who make them; as independent program makers they must observe the legal guidelines set out in the Hamburger Mediengesetz, the law defining the use of media in Hamburg. The editors of Offener Kanal are responsible for controlling the compliance of this law.

Technical and journalistic support is provided by a team of 12 full-time staff at Offener Kanal Hamburg.

Since 1998 the program structure has been divided into three parts. One part of the program is produced by the editors at Offener Kanal, in cooperation with journalist groups, students of journalism, and freelancers. Another part is produced by cooperation projects with Offener Kanal Hamburg, some university projects, and some media educational projects. The third part of the program is open to everyone. In this part, productions are broadcasted in order of their registration.

In 2002 Offener Kanal Hamburg broadcast more than 2,400 different radio programs and 1,500 television programs. In that year well over 1,000 people made use of the channel’s production facilities. Beside the channel’s regular broadcasts, there were more than 32 special programs, providing extensive, in-depth insights into a variety of social, political and cultural issues. (Cf. NFO Media Research Ballungsraum Fernsehen (5/2003)

§1 para. 1 of the HAM statute states: “The Offener Kanal should be set up in such a way that as many citizens as possible can make use of it. Its services are primarily aimed at those whose voice is under-represented in other media.


Since electronic media has come into existence, it has emanated an aura of being unapproachable. These forms of media seem to be the window towards the world. Media constructs our reality.

I would like to illustrate this point with an example:

When in 1938 American radio broadcasted a radio play by Orson Wells called “The War of the Worlds” (This was a story about an attack on the earth by Martians that was apparently taking place at that very moment), this prompted scenes of panic throughout the population of America.

Even 50 years later, as a result of the TV–series “Schwarzwaldklinik” (Black Forest Clinic) masses of tourist buses drove to “Glottertal” to visit TV-doctor Prof. Dr. Brinckmann in the rehabilitation clinic.

Only by their presence in the media do events become important. This is especially true of television. Children and Teenagers nowadays grow up with this second-hand-reality.

Media creates opinions. In times of war, images of killed civilians influence public opinion in favor of ending the war, images of violations of human rights, however, such as the image of a public stoning of women in Afghanistan, generate public support. (Cf. Artus (2003), pp. 2-8)

The way the troops are represented is also of great significance. A technological presentation of the latest weaponry without images of victims generates support. On the other hand, images of street fighting that result in the death or injury of soldiers and civilians generates opposition. (Cf.Lauersdorf/ Rademacher 2003, pp. 2-8)

Yet the images presented in the media do not only influence contemporary opinion, they are also extremely relevant for people’s perception of their own history.

In recent years, German media has shown an increasing number of images of the bombardment of Hitler’s Germany at the end of World War Two, in which Germans are presented as victims. This conceals the fact that Germany played an active role in the war and that these attacks in fact liberated many people. The images in the media influence people’s own view of history and there is a danger of them strengthening nationalistic tendencies in Germany. (Cf. Vandersitt 2004, pp. 2-5)

Public access channels offer the opportunity to develop “counter-publicity,” a catchphrase discussed frequently in the seventies. Newspapers such as “TAZ-Die Tageszeitung” were set up in the area of print media. Television subject to public law guaranteed a certain degree of diversity because it was a subject to public control, but once broadcasting was commercialized, the question of counter-publicity became a subject of current interest.

Today children grow up in a world in which electronic media is part of their environment. Their daily life is organized and structured according to the media, and it becomes part of the process of socialization. Educational Science has responded to this and extended the filed of Pedagogy to include the discipline Media Education.

However, the different forms of media should not only be understood as carriers and systems of information, but also as everything that plays a role in the processes of interaction and communication, and in the process of imparting information.

Within the wide range of media educational approaches, it is above all the socio-critical position and the practice oriented position that are important for the work of “Offener Kanal.” The socio-critical position has its roots in the ideological-critical approach that is based on the Frankfurter Critical Theory. According to this theory, people’s own experience in media production have the effect that they are not so easily manipulated and it also provides the opportunity for active participation in the opinion-forming process.

“Offener Kanal” provides a chance to develop a critical and analytical opinion towards the media. By experiencing the process themselves people are able to better assess and perceive the complexity and the technological possibilities and conditions involved in the production of films and radio broadcasts.

The tricks and secrets of media production and the possibilities for the manipulation of image and sound—almost all of this remains hidden to the majority of people, as long are not familiar with all levels of production due to practical experience, for example as a journalist, technician or producer.

In contrast to media educational work with video at schools or youth centers, “Offener Kanal” enables the users to cross the threshold between them and the public. Users have the opportunity to put forward their point of view for discussion by the public and to play an active role in opinion-forming processes.

However, the still relatively small amount of recipients, in comparison to other television stations is still an obstacle.

During periods of conflict, open channels can be a relevant local media for particular groups, but only if the respective decision-makers can be reached, directly or indirectly, by the broadcasts. (Cf. Vogel 1991, p. 22)

The further evolvement of the socio-critical position lead to the development of the action-oriented position. The pedagogical concept of the action-oriented position includes action-oriented approaches while at the same time focusing on the subject and its own experience of media. It does not examine the effects that media has on the recipient but concentrates instead on the way the subject uses the media.

A self-determined learning process enables the user to gain communicative competence by means of practical experience with media, instead of being guided towards a critical opinion by specified methods of education. In the opinion of some experts, the acquisition of communicative competency during the process of production is more important than the journalistic function. (Cf. Enzenberger 1970, p. 167)

“The primary goal of the users, however, is to reach their audience with good and interesting broadcasts.” (Jarren 1994, pp. 60/61)

No matter whether the process of production or the product itself is considered to be more important, communicative competency is required to create a program. This competence is learned automatically during the production process, even if the user does not have this goal in mind.

The act of appropriation and co-creation of something involves a learning process. Social learning can therefore only take place when the process of learning includes the possibility of active co-creation. Communicative competence is a structure embedded within the subject, which is constantly being reactivated by authentic experience. Therefore, this structure is interwoven with learning by doing and authentic experience.

It is always remarkable how rapidly young users understand the complicated technology of the Offener Kanal and how quickly they try out new tricks that not even TV and radio editors in Offener Kanal are familiar with. Some have developed a professional interest in the broadcasting companies in the course of this experience and today they are working as freelance journalists, moderators of youth broadcasts at Radio Hamburg or as video jockeys at MTV.

In this way, Offener Kanal provides the possibility of achieving a professional qualification for those who strive for it. By means of specific introductory courses and journalistic coaching, the initial step towards producing one’s own media can be made and new TV and radio formats can be tried out without the pressure of having to fulfill advertising quotas.

Women have the chance to gain self-confidence in working with media and technology in a male-dominated area. In traditional education this used to be—and still is—a field that is dominated by boys and as a result women often do not have a playful, self-confident approach to technology. Nevertheless, at “Offener Kanal” there is no concept that takes into account the differences in the prior knowledge and approach to technology in the introductory courses. Thus there is a danger that women will be forced into classical stereotyped jobs such as moderation and be discouraged from working in the technological areas.

Offener Kanal plays a significant role for minority groups. Most of the images we encounter in the media reflect the experiences and images of the majority groups in our society. Minorities, whether national, religious, ethnical or gender-based share a common fate of relative invisibility and demeaning stereotypes. (Cf. Larry Gross (1998), p.87 - 103)


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Media Educational Social Work in 'Offener Kanal Hamburg' (Public Access Radio and TV Hamburg) - Possibilities and Limitations
Hamburg University of Applied Sciences  (University of Applied Sciences Hamburg)
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Media, Educational, Social, Work, Offener, Kanal, Hamburg, Access, Radio, Hamburg), Possibilities, Limitations, Medienpädagogik
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Dipl. Paed. Kathrin Nina Wiedl (Author), 2003, Media Educational Social Work in 'Offener Kanal Hamburg' (Public Access Radio and TV Hamburg) - Possibilities and Limitations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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