DOX met Hans Robert Eisenhauer twice, first in Strasbourg – at ARTE’s new home near other, prestigious, glass-covered European institutions – and next at “Documentary in Europe” in Italy, where Eisenhauer delivered a speech about European public service television. A shortened and edited version of the speech follows this talk with TUE STEEN MÜLLER.«
Hans Robert Eisenhauer: If you take public service in countries like France and Germany, I think that the importance of documentaries has even increased in the last ten or fifteen years. Sometimes on generalist channels like the ARD and ZDF, the documentaries appear later in the evening, whereas on ARTE, 3Sat and Phoenix they are shown in prime time. Especially in Germany and France, documentaries represent a large number of hours and are not reduced, as you also have specialist channels like Odyssée, Planète and France5. At ARTE we show around 2000 new hours a year – from Grand Format to La vie en Face to History and Science and many other programmes.
Eisenhauer is a true believer in television as a key tool for modern societies to spread information that enables viewers to take part in the democratic process. He is not afraid to use big words when he stresses that the aims of public service are Information, Entertainment and Education. Documentaries fit perfectly into that picture.
HRE: Documentaries tell people what is going on in the world. We have to keep the attention on the themes and we have to defend the independence of ratings. Even at ARTE, we have to watch the ratings but we also have to take care that we don’t only do things we know are successful.
Tue Steen Müller: … without ignoring the realities:
HRE: There is a tendency in documentaries to view them more like an entertainment programme. I hate this word Infotainment. People have to be entertained, of course, but they can be, too, if I give them knowledge.
TSM: ARTE broadcasts docu-soaps every night?
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