Federal Press Office from 1949 to present
Konrad Adenauer was elected Germany's first postwar Chancellor on September 15, 1949. The next day he established the Federal Chancellery, referring to it at the time as the 'Office of the Federal Government'. This was also the day the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government (Federal Press Office) was created.
Looking back to the pastNot wanting to be associated with the activities of the Propaganda Ministry under the Nazi regime, the first postwar government looked to the Weimar Republic for orientation in organizing the Federal Press Office.
Adenauer made it clear that he did not want a 'press office in the Chancellery' but rather a separate authority. The head of the Press and Information Office answers directly to the Chancellor.
The Federal Press Office has developed into a modern service-providing organization, serving the general public, the media, and the government.
The shorter and more frequently used designation "Federal Press Office" may be a bit misleading in that it is not an institution that in any way regulates or supervises the press.
An institution of this kind does not exist in Germany. The press is free and there is no censorship (Article 5 paragraph 1, sentences 2 and 3 of the Basic Law).
The Press and Information Office fulfills two key functions: it supplies information to the public on the work being done by the government and it supplies information to the government so that the latter can do its work well.
The Press Office informs the media and the general public of measures taken, laws passed, as well as policies formulated by the government and it also provides background information on these matters.
Freedom of speech and freedom of choice presuppose access to information and the possession of knowledge. Those who want to be involved in political decision-making processes need to be well informed.
The Press Office supplies domestic and international news to cabinet ministers and members of parliament, to the Chancellor and the President, as well as to their staff in the form of summaries, overviews, briefings, etc.
The government is dependent on comprehensive and reliable news reporting in order to make appropriate and responsible decisions.
The Press Office serves the information needs of the general public, the media, as well as the government.
Informing the government
It is important that the President, the Chancellor, cabinet ministers, and members of parliament have access to previously evaluated and systematically organized media information at all times so that they will be able to respond quickly, if necessary. With this in mind, the Press Office also keeps them supplied with information when they are traveling abroad.
A press folder is put together twice a day for the Chancellor with selected articles from leading domestic and foreign newspapers and magazines.
Electronic news summaries are compiled for use by members of government and parliament, as well as by ministerial and parliamentary staff, providing the latest news items, reports, commentaries, and interviews.
The press archive maintains around 2,500 domestic and foreign news publications.
The Press Office makes use of major national and international wire services, daily and weekly newspapers, as well as news magazines for purposes of research and documentation.
Politically relevant programming broadcast by around 125 domestic and foreign radio and television stations are recorded and evaluated. Needless to say, all the major on-line news sources are monitored as well.
Informing the media
The media play a central role in a democracy, acting as intermediaries between the government, on the one hand, and the general public, on the other.
Newspapers, radio, and television keep people informed and, in doing so, help to shape public opinion. This is why it is so important that the media be kept thoroughly informed of government activities. The government not only has a right to this kind of access to the media, it has a duty to inform the media.
The government makes use of various instruments to fulfill its obligation to inform the media, including that of holding press conferences at regular intervals on current issues.
The German press corps ("Bundespressekonferenz") holds press conferences three times a week at which government and ministerial spokespersons field questions from journalists on the latest political developments.
Otherwise the "Chef vom Dienst", the duty editor at the press desk in the government spokesman's office is the first port of call for questions from journalists. This office puts out press releases issued by the Chancellor or other members of the government.
The Press Office maintains a website for media professionals, offering news, background material, and documents on government policies.
The Press Office photo archive contains more than 2 million pictures taken of presidents and chancellors at official events at home and abroad.
Informing the public
The government also informs the public directly. The Internet has played an increasingly important role in this for a number of years now.
The Press Office provides current information, background, and original documents on government policies at www.bundesregierung.de and www.bundeskanzlerin.de. These websites have between two and three million hits a month.
As many as 25 million page views are registered each month, meaning that a much larger number of people are being reached by this means than was the case with other media in the past.
Numerous brochures and advisory manuals provide information on important topics of general interest. To an increasing extent this information is being made available on the Internet as well.
This not only saves on printing costs, it also makes it easier to keep information updated. Target groups for which advisory manuals have been produced and made available both in print form and on-line include: 'young people', 'women', 'employees', 'renters' and 'rent subsidy recipients'.
Around 85,000 persons a year travel to the federal capital, Berlin, in the context of a parliamentary visitors' program (organized by the BPA). The standard itinerary includes a visit to the BPA as well as meetings with members of parliament and ministerial experts.