SWR withdraws controversial “Wuhan” documentary

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SWR withdraws controversial





© SWR / CICC / SWR / CICC
Scene from the controversial documentary about Wuhan in the ARD series


The broadcaster had used material for the corona documentation that came from a subdivision of the Chinese propaganda authorities.

SWR withdraws controversial “Wuhan” documentary

The Südwestrundfunk has now canceled the broadcast of a controversial documentary about the outbreak of the pandemic in Wuhan. The film Wuhan – Chronicle of an outbreak should run on Monday evening as “Story im Erste” on ARD. The documentary was temporarily removed from the program on Monday morning. There had been massive criticism of the production in advance. The Southern German newspaperg had reported last Monday that the SWR almost exclusively used footage from the China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC) for the documentation. It is a subdivision of the Chinese propaganda machine.

The production company Gebrüder Beetz had not made its own interviews on behalf of the SWR in China. The CICC conducted and delivered the interviews with the Chinese experts. The state authority had also been assured an advisory function. She was able to view versions of the manuscript and is said to have pushed for changes, as several sources report. The production company Gebrüder Beetz has not made any comments to SZ despite several inquiries. The production company did not respond to a query until Monday afternoon, even when the film was canceled. The film, which journalists could see in advance, also contained errors in content.

The reason for the cancellation on Monday was surprising after the harsh criticism. Neither the criticism of the cooperation with the CICC, nor the weaknesses in the content of the film were discussed. The SWR justified the move with a rights problem. Until the very end, the broadcaster had “fought for the realization of this important project together with the production company,” it said in a message from the broadcaster. During the intensive editorial and legal review, it was important to the broadcaster that the film met all journalistic and legal requirements.

“As the SWR only learned yesterday, the commissioned production company cannot grant the SWR the necessary rights to the film material used by the CICC,” said the SWR. “This means that there is no basic requirement for the journalistic standards for the use of foreign raw materials valid at the SWR.” Because a consensual clarification of rights that is acceptable to the broadcaster does not appear to be achievable, he is currently not planning to broadcast it. Alternatively, the first one shows the production on Monday evening on Monday evening Sneakers – The big deal with sneakers. The SWR did not respond to a request from the SZ until Monday afternoon.

Employees speak of a “total disaster”

Within the ARD institutions, the decision was taken with relief in many cases. Several employees independently reported that the cancellation was interpreted internally as a reaction to the criticism of the extensive use of the material and the filmic implementation. In the past week there had already been considerable discussions about the project within the editorial offices. Employees spoke to the SZ of a “total disaster” and a “disaster”. The cooperation means enormous damage to the image.

Until the end, a discussion about the use of the material used was therefore discussed, which was to be placed in the media library together with the film. However, it was not possible to agree on the exact implementation internally, it said from the broadcaster. The project also criticized the fact that ARD correspondents working in China were neither involved nor informed, although critical productions can have consequences for their work.

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