German broadcaster WDR aims for high TV ratings with racism – WDR programme “The last instance” reveals deep-rooted antigypsyism in society

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma sharply criticises the TV programme “the last instance”) hosted by Steffen Hallaschka, which was broadcasted by the German TV channel WDR (West German Broadcasting Cologne) on 29 January 2021. Among other things the show discussed whether or not it is a necessary step to rename a German barbecue sauce called “Zigeunersoße”. Last year some sauce producers announced to change the name of their product due to its racist characteristic.

Romani Rose, the chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, said, “I noted with consternation that two days after the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on which we commemorate the 500,000 murdered Sinti and Roma in Europe, four people from the majority society claimed for themselves the position to judge whether a term is rejected by the minority as offensive, had its justification or not in German language. If there is a ‘last instance’ on this question it should be the people concerned. However, their voices were not heard in the programme. This programme gives the impression that it aims for higher TV ratings with antigypsyism and stupid appearances.

The fact that after public pressure in social media Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) apologised for the brazen and populist way the programme was made does not change at all the reality thatin large parts of German media there is no awareness whatsoever of the widespread and violent antigypsyism in society. At the same time, we recognize that criticism towards this programme is being voiced very clearly in social media, especially by young people – a positive development that also stands against the increasing hate comments on the internet.”

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma finds it impertinent and insulting when cheap jokes are made in the programme at the expense of a minority without any intervention of the moderator. On the contrary, the moderator Steffen Hallaschka  interposed questions to exacerbate the discussants´ statements at the expense of minorities. This is absolutely unacceptable in public broadcasting. In addition, the introduction to the programme already recorded exactly the antigypsyist statements that were later repeated by the discussants and the programme was specifically targeted at them. There can be no question of something having “got out of hand” here.

The broadcasting of such a TV program demonstrates that antigypsyism is not taken seriously as part of everyday racism and as a problem of society. Because of the editorial failure, the Central Council addressed those responsible for the programme at the WDR channel and demanded a clarifying discussion. The discussion will also focus on how the WDR intends to prevent programmes like “The last instance” from exploring and gaining TV ratings through racism on the backs of marginalised groups.

It is long overdue that representatives of the Sinti and Roma are finally given a permanent seat in the public broadcasting councils as well as in the media supervisory bodies for private broadcasters, in order to counter the social acceptance of antigypsyism as it is repeatedly shown in the media. The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, together with its regional associations, will approach and target the responsible institutions.

Verwandte Veranstaltungen:

Wednesday 10 Mar 2021
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: “Hate speech and Antigypsyism in the Media”