THE YEAR’S RESEARCH 2006/2007

The Hans-Bredow-Institut has seldom been so much at the centre of debate in society at large as it has with the current investigation into the Law for the Protection of Minors.

Begun in October 2006, the project evaluates the current federal system of protection of minors against harmful media content, which was established by the federal Youth Protection Act and the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors. Alongside many academic challenges, which find expression in the interdisciplinary cooperation between the Institute’s experts in media education, researchers into reception and the Institute’s academic lawyers, the Institute can also here prove its worth vis-à-vis politics and society: a neutral adviser producing research-based grounds for decisions and with that remaining fully aware of its responsibilities but avoiding instrumentalisation of itself within conflicts of media politics.

In terms of research, sponsoring for this intended evaluation is opportune, because the Institute can link directly to insights from the European project on co-regulation, which was concluded at the beginning of 2007 with a press conference in Brussels. In this investigation, the Institute could prove that co-regulation, that is: the combination of state and non-state elements in the protection of young people, for instance, is fundamentally suited to application by the member states when they convert European guidelines. The study does, however, make clear that co-regulation requires certain conditions to function.

The project “Youth Protection and Video Games”, produced in the framework of evaluating the Law for the Protection of the Minors in the Media, also serves as a basis for a research and transfer centre, which the Institute is currently establishing to address the topic of “Games”. A general lecture series – well received by the general public – on the subject of “Games”, which the Institute offered in the summer semester 2007 together with the University of Hamburg, represents a further initiative in this direction.

European and international perspectives mark the research work of the Institute. This is currently also illustrated by increased requests from foreign academics wishing to conduct research work at the Institute. However, the Institute unfortunately cannot meet these requests as often, as would be desirable, because provisions of space do not currently permit suitable working conditions for guest researchers.

At the same time, the Institute is engaged in international cooperative projects. Alongside a current project on Internet use among children and minors, in cooperation with partners from 18 European countries, the Institute is taking various roles in preparing applications to the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union.

The research and transfer performance of the Institute has also figured in the current report of the Wissenschaftsrat, an advisory body to the Federal Government and the state (Länder) governments. Its function is to draw up recommendations on the development of higher education institutions, science and the research sector as regards content and structure. In the “Recommendations on further Development of Communications and Media Study in Germany” the Wissenschaftsrat has made a first attempt at structuring this area. It expressly named the Hans-Bredow-Institut in connection with the proposal to equip an academic institution with sufficient financial and staffing resources to realise the task of continuous and in-depth consultation with a trans-regional perspective. At the same time, the Wissenschaftsrat also recalled the evaluation of the Institute in 1999, which already advocated assessing whether financing by the federal government should be considered. At that time, this was not feasible. The Institute sees the new report as reason to establish the Institute’s funding on a federal level and to stabilise the overall financial situation. In this connection, the completely unsatisfactory situation with space, which has gone on for some years now, needs to be alleviated.

The Institute’s greatest potential is, as always, its highly qualified and motivated staff. In the course of last year, Claudia Lampert and Thorsten Held were able to complete their doctorates; Till Kreutzer represents a further ex-staff member with a completed doctorate, who is today connected to the Institute as associate staff member. That higher qualifications are valued elsewhere is demonstrated by the fact that PD Dr. Christiane Eilders was offered a chair at the University of Augsburg. The Institute owes her above all important insights in the areas of political communications and the structure of the public space. We hope to be able to keep up contact with her in her new position.

Equally indispensable for the Institute’s work is the commitment of its institutional sponsors. We are particularly grateful that all institutions have maintained their support at its usual level in the last research year, even though consideration of the financial situation both with the state media institutions as well as with the public broadcasters is being constantly reviewed. Ongoing sponsors of the Institute are: the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the German public broadcasters NDR, WDR, ARD, ZDF, and Deutsche Welle, the Consortium of the state media authorities as well as the Foundation Medienstiftung Hamburg / Schles­wig-Holstein. We thank them all particularly.

This research report gives an overview of the activities of the Institute in the last year – above all in the core area of its work, research, but also with regard to the transfer of knowledge and the service provision, which the Institute offers to those active in the area of media and of society at large.

Hamburg, June 2007

 

Uwe Hasebrink, Wolfgang Schulz