The research perspective of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) focuses on media-based public communication, regardless of the individual technical platforms involved. The institute’s research focuses on how certain forms of media-based communication influence different aspects of our lives, such as politics, economy, culture, education, law, religion and family, and how they contribute to structural transformations. The fact that the research activities are problem-oriented also leads to a distinct interest in the “new” media – and it is the Institute’s aim to contribute to their understanding as well as to their future shape.
The subject area requires interdisciplinary research, which is why the professional backgrounds of the Institute’s researchers are adequately diverse. The organisational structure of the Institute is based on two main subject areas – the field of communication science and the field of law – where the latter is not only focused on legal matters as such, but also on research concerning regulatory structures. Further, international comparative research is of increasing importance for the Institute. Thus, the Institute is actively involved in several international research networks.
The Institute is named after Hans Bredow, who played an important role in the development of broadcasting technology. He served as the “Rundfunkstaatssekretär” [State Secretary of Broadcasting] in the Weimar Republic, but stepped down from his office on the day the National Socialists took power. Later, he contributed a lot to the development of a public broadcasting system in the young Federal Republic of Germany. At that time, it also became clear that the area of media development is so important that it should be covered by an independent research institution. In 1950, Universität Hamburg and the broadcasting corporation “Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk” thus founded the Hans-Bredow-Institut as an independent institution focusing on this field of research. Since then, the Institute is a so-called “An-Institut” of Universität Hamburg: legally independent, but connected to Universität Hamburg in many ways.
Since 2019, the Institute is a member of the Leibniz Association and since then it's name is Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI). It is funded by the Federal Government, the land of Hamburg and the other Länder.
Today, all areas of people's everyday life are affected by the process of mediatisation: politics, economy, culture, education, law, religion and many more. The research conducted by the Institute focuses on the central aspects of this transformation. On the one hand, the focus lies on how society informs itself under these circumstances; on the other hand, the research concentrates on regulations structures that are emerging. In addition, the Institute uses impulses from practice and includes them in transfer research projects. Thus, the Institute contributes to the continuous observation and reflection of communicative fundamentals in society; at the same time, it helps shaping the media and communication landscape with its expertise.
In its research, the Institute combines a variety of research disciplines: in the foreground stands the perspective of empirically underpinned social sciences, as well as jurisprudence focusing on processes of regulation. The combination of these two perspectives is one of the special characteristics, which distinguishes the Institute vis-à-vis other research organisations in Germany and abroad.
The Institute combines conducting long-term investigations based on research fundamentals with practice-oriented expertise in the service of politics, commerce and civil society. Our work is constantly committed to the yardsticks of excellence in research and to the fundamental principle of its independence.
The Institute makes a sustained contribution to promoting the next generations of researchers, especially in the doctoral phase and, thereby, works closely with Universität Hamburg and other institutes for training and further education in the city.
The Institute's anchoring at one of Europe's most important media locations and the thus possible close cooperation with political, economic and cultural actors in the sector contributed to the fact that in the more than 65 years of its existence the Institute has also been able to acquire a great reputation in the national and international research landscape. In 1999, Science Council emphasized the high level of this research and ranked the institute among the most renowned specialist institutes in Germany. In 2007, the Council again emphasized the special position of the institute within media and communication studies in Germany.
After an evaluation in 2017, the Science Council on 26 January 2018 expressed its support for including the Hans-Bredow-Institut for Media Research into the Leibniz Association. The Council assesses the scientific quality of the Hans-Bredow-Institut and its structural relevance for the scientific system as "very good", its supra-regional significance as "excellent". In September 2016, the committee of the Joint Science Conference (GWK) had asked the Science Council to examine whether the Institute should be included in the joint funding of the Federal Government and the Länder.
The Institute offers important service functions for the communications and media studies in their entirety and for the wider public sphere with its library open to the public, regular publications, especially the special research journal “Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft [Media and Communication Studies]”. These functions also include the communication of the status of research knowledge for journalism, politics and civil society in plain language.