FALL 2000 ISSUE

Journal Home

Penn Law Home

"Yet for mass media it may mean that traditional cultural structures are more eroded, that you see more and more of the same forms, of not-very-informative entertainment, or 'infotainment.'" He notes that the dumbing-down of what the media corporations are offering isn't only an American product, citing a Dutch television precedent to the current American network program "Survivor," which appears to be an odd hybrid of Lord of the Flies and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Kübler is concerned that media-as-big-business be conscientious of, even subordinate to, its journalistic function of ensuring public access to information. He notes that although in Germany, as in the rest of Europe, television markets tend to be national rather than international, a few nascent European media conglomerates are as hungry for international market share as their American counterparts.

"We are seeing more concentration and trans-border concentration," Kübler states. Through his role as an advisor to one of Germany's state television networks and as a member of the German commission for the control of media concentration, Kübler hopes to continue to mitigate the effects of these European Time Warner/Viacom aspirants. He lists among the elite powerhouses Bertelsmann, News Corporation, Kirch (Germany), and Berlusconi (Italy). In the future, he wouldn't rule out a joint venture between any of these that would lead to the domination of some of the relevant markets in Europe.

Yet, Kübler observes, "In most European countries we still have a comparatively strong and viable public broadcasting service, which normally has 30 to 40 percent of the market." The German constitution ensures that government "has an obligation to create and protect these norms," he notes. And he thinks that will be a key role of the legal profession on both sides of the Atlantic in the years to come: helping to create the rules shaping a media that serves democracy by offering real news to a public with a huge variance in education and intellectual interest.

"I think the basic issue is how far can you retain a system where editors still have a sense of responsibility to the public, and not only be led by a need to increase sales. You certainly have it in the New York Times," - his preferred U.S. newspaper - "the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal," Kübler says. "But to what extent do you have it in stuff offered to other people who did not go to college?"

"The ability to make reasonable decisions for oneself," he continues, "is not part of our biological heritage, it's something we have to learn. We have to think about the institutions allowing people to make reasonable decisions for themselves."

Not one, but two worlds are fortunate enough to benefit from Professor Kübler's legal insight and commitment to maintaining the foundations of a free press and a fair media marketplace that serves democracy well. And surely the exciting vision of a global community - diverse societies sharing knowledge and culture via the advances of technology - is all the more promising due to Kübler's commitment to ensuring the vitality of mass media in service to all the world's voices.