Pay to Play

If Angela Merkel is truly interested in free trade with the United States, I have a good place to start the horse trading. From the get go, American trade negotiators should make it clear that reducing government influence over vast swaths of the German media will have to be considered in the package.

Our point should be that only with a more vibrant and representative German media can the US get a fair hearing in the court of German public opinion. The present media, heavily influenced by a small group of elites, does not adequately speak for the German people nor, for that matter, does it often speak the truth about America.

Throughout the Bush presidency, government controlled German media have been publishing and broadcasting the most vile anti-American propaganda one can imagine. Publications like Stern print German language articles full of invective, while translating their English language product in much softer terms. The result has been a highly distorted and dangerous view of US policy in that country.

All this comes from media outlets that are either partially owned or significant subsidized by the German government. It is time to hold that government accountable for the product of its own media. Economic pressure on the German government is not unwarranted.

Germany has much more to gain from free trade than does the US. We need to play our hand to the fullest extent possible. Getting a fair hearing in the court of German public opinion is not too much to ask.