FOX News Comes to Germany in Time for Elections

October 19, 2020

In February 2019, Germany’s independent Jewish monthly, Juedische Rundschau, published an open letter to then Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, pleading with him to help concerned Germans launch a “European FOX News.”

“Dear Mr. Grenell,” read the letter. “Seventy-five years after World War 2, we need another American program to bring democracy back to Germany! We need a ‘European Fox’ News. Please help us! Help us save diversity of opinion in Germany and save our endangered German-American friendship!”

The letter describes an anti-Trump German media cartel whose biased coverage has inspired the majority of Germans to name Trump, a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the “greatest threat to world peace” in a December 2018 YouGov poll – ahead of the leaders of Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China.

It is unclear what came out of the letter—or if it ever reached Grenell—who left his German post in June after three months of simultaneously serving as both Ambassador and Acting Director of National Intelligence. These days, Grenell, can be seen on the Republican campaign trail and on FOX News as a regular commentator on the 2020 elections.

But the Jewish newspaper’s wish may have come true—partially. While FOX confirmed they have no plans to develop a European version, the live American broadcast and an on-demand catalogue of its most popular shows are available since September 17 across all major streaming devices for $7 a month. FOX News is still not available in Germany as a news channel alongside CNN and BBC World, and there is no indication if and when it might be.

“We are constantly working with cable and satellite companies around the world to ensure anyone who wants content from FOX News Media can access it,” said John Fiedler, Executive Vice President, Digital Product and Technology, FOX News Media and FOX Corporation, in an e-mail interview. “Since we are not currently available in Germany, we made sure it was one of the first countries we debuted the Fox News International platform.”

The FOX News International app is also available in Mexico and UK, with more countries to follow.

The German media’s characterization of FOX might lead one to conclude that the news network is the media arm of the Republican National Committee. In covering the German expansion, Focus online called the news station “Trump’s favorite” and categorized it as “right-wing conservative to right-wing extremist.” The financial newspaper Handelsblatt called Fox “the ram of the Republicans.”

However, Trump himself is not always a fan of Fox. He railed against the network on Twitter in April, writing, “Fox News just doesn’t get what’s happening. They are being fed Democrat talking points, and they play them without hesitation or research.” He criticized the moderator of the first debate, FOX’s Chris Wallace, for bias against him.

Still, all in all, FOX is considered America’s mainstream conservative option, one that makes pro-Trump and pro-American Germans envious.

“It will find an audience, because almost all Germans speak English,” said Dr. Rafael Korenzecher, publisher of Jüdische Rundschau, a pre-War Jewish newspaper he revived to give a conservative alternative to German media, including state-funded Jewish outlets. “But FOX News’ real breakthrough will only be achieved with a German-language offering.”

He cites Russia Today as a precedent of foreign news media coverage entering the German market in the vernacular, but “FOX Deutsch,” he said, would have a much more captive audience and advertising market.

Benjamin Wolfmeier, press secretary for Republicans Overseas Germany and an independent pollster, found a way to watch FOX in the past, thanks to his tech-savvy husband. A new user of the app, he said the streaming quality is better than the “boot-legged” alternative, but he had trouble streaming the first presidential debate, presumably from an overload of viewers, although FOX News reported no issues with the platform.

“But it worked very well when President Trump presented his judge for the Supreme Court,” Wolfmeier said.

The app also won’t work for Americans in Germany who have not switched the region of their app store to Germany, so American tourists might be left in the FOX dark. But Wolfmeier thinks there is adequate demand for the American network among many Germans, an audience accustomed to German dubbing of English-language programs.

“I think many people prefer to watch it in the original and not translated, and then you only have CNN in Germany, and you have the conflict because they’re anti-Trump in a big, big way.”

Strehl hopes to watch FOX’s live stream alongside CNN during an election “watch party” he’ll host at his Hannover home in the middle of the night. As much as he doesn’t like CNN’s reporting, on a technical level, it has some advantages, particularly for a pollster.

“CNN has much better maps,” Wolfmeier said. “They do a much better job in that. They show better what went on years ago, in the districts, and who can win the state.”

According to FOX’s Fiedler, the timing of the roll-out before the election was fortuitous. It recorded its highest day of German downloads across iOS platforms on the day of the first presidential debate.

“We did not tie it specifically to the election; however, we certainly expect the election to drive interest in the product.”

This article first appeared in German in Die Achse Des Guten. 

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