On Tuesday, the German media oversight agency, the ZAK, announced that it was prohibiting broadcasting of the Austrian alternative TV channel AUF1 on German satellite television. AUF stands for Alternative Unabhängige Fernsehen or ‘Alternative Independent Television’.
The decision is ostensibly based on a technical violation: it is, more precisely, the Stuttgart-based television channel SRGT which is prohibited from broadcasting AUF1 programming in Germany. But, as reaction to the ban in the mainstream German media and from activist organisations makes clear, it is in fact the content of the programming that is at issue.
Thus, the self-described “citizens’ movement” Campact, which has campaigned for a prohibition of the channel, celebrated what it called a “victory against Right-wing extremism” by posting the below graphic on X. The top line reads: “Success against Hate and Fake News on TV.” This is gleefully followed by “Far-Right TV-Network Shut Down!”, which is highlighted in red, and then “Our protest works! AUF1 is no longer allowed to broadcast in Germany”. This is all very reminiscent of the campaign against GB News in the U.K., a TV station which occupies a similar role of conservative dissent from the broadcast mainstream.
The selected, er, ‘hate’ figures featuring in the image include two prominent representatives of Germany’s AfD or Alternative for Germany party: Alice Weidel, the party Co-Chair, and Björn Höcke, the head of the party’s parliamentary group in the state of Thuringia. The AfD is under surveillance by the German domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, for suspicion of “extremism” and is regularly threatened with being banned. The regional party organisations in the eastern states of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, where the party enjoys the support of around one-third of the electorate according to the latest polling, have been officially classified as “far-Right” by the BfV.
But sandwiched between the two AfD politicians in the Campact graphic is none other than the former director of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maaßen! Maaßen headed the domestic intelligence agency, whose spying activities are largely devoted to ostensibly “combatting extremism”, from 2012 to 2018. But, in light of his frequent criticism of Government policy and the often heterodox positions he has adopted on a wide variety of subjects in the meanwhile, he has somehow now morphed into an emblem of alleged ‘extremism’ himself.
While its detractors accuse AUF1 of having provided a platform for the ‘far Right’, the channel has in fact, above all, made a name for itself in Austria and Germany for its critical coverage of and frank opposition to Covid-related measures. This is reflected in the below photo with which the German public broadcaster SWR illustrates an article on the banning of the Austrian channel. The SWR article also, incidentally, attempts to highlight the channels’ connections to the AfD and the “far Right”.
The posters, which include the AUF1 logo, read “No to forced vaccination!” and “The pandemic is over. Take off your masks!”
While the banning of AUF1 has been applauded by German activist groups and the mainstream media, there is less unanimity in social media. Thus, in a post which has garnered many hundreds of reposts and likes, X user ‘AntoineRichard’ comments:
Have you heard? #Auf1 has been shut down in Germany! But it’s also important to know that in the best Germany of all time there is no #censorship, but rather #freedomofspeech! This is something we can be really proud of!
This is followed by two emojis: