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Let’s get high-quality information to low-tech devices in Africa

AnnelieGuest commentary

Annelie Moreira Da Silva, DW Distribution Representative for Africa

Smartphones are fast becoming the standard tool for consuming news and information, but for many people in developing and emerging countries, this technology is still out of reach. It is estimated that out of the total 5 billion mobile users worldwide, only 1 billion are using smartphones. The remaining number represents a majority of people in emerging and developing countries who are using 2G or “feature phones” for mobile Internet access.

DW works hard to provide top-quality news and information to people in hard to reach places. In emerging markets such as in Africa, expensive Internet and mobile technology makes smartphones a luxury that few can afford. Most people try to use their feature phones to access valuable social networks and online news which usually demands a higher level of data processing than these devices can provide – but there are some solutions.

A innovative platform called biNu is providing a way for feature phones to efficiently navigate the web. And since June, DW has been cooperating with biNu to provide feature phone users in Africa with easy access to DW’s high-quality online news content.

The biNu app provides high-end functionality by turning feature phones with a basic Internet connection into “virtual smartphones.” It achieves this by using cloud networks to process and compress data from websites allowing the end result to be easily used via a feature phone. The result of using a cloud platform to streamline data is a service that is 10 times faster than a standard mobile browser while requiring 10 times less bandwidth. The displays are simplified and optimized for a feature phone and the most important elements of the website are passed on to the user.

The service already has more than 900,000 users in Africa, mostly located in fast-growing media markets like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana but also in countries like Zimbabwe and Ethiopia where, because of the difficult political climate, are harder for international media to access.

Even as infrastructure improves, the low cost of feature phones and continually expensive network and Internet access means that many people in these developing countries will continue to use their mobile phones as the primary device for going online. Providing them with easily accessible news, information and social networks is a hugely important task. Through cooperating with biNu, DW can overcome the disparity in international technological standards and provide information that people need on the device that they prefer.


2014-08-06 | 7:27



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A clear voice in a war of words

Ingo MannteufelGuest Commentary

Ingo Mannteufel, Head of Russian and Eurasian Services at DW

The current conflict in eastern Ukraine is being played out as much on the front pages and primetime newscasts as it is on the ground in the affected areas. Misinformation coming from Eastern Ukraine is rampant and events become confused as both sides attempt to control the narrative.

Responsible journalism does not contribute to a single agenda or fan the flames of public animosity. In the case of Ukraine, the role of the impartial observer becomes integral in presenting a sober and realistic assessment of the facts aside from jingoistic nationalism or the fog of war. What is said becomes critical in a situation where words are being used as ammunition.

Getting the facts straight in a conflict zone can be a daunting task. In Eastern Ukraine, reporters on the ground have been threatened, accused of telling lies and even imprisoned by pro-Russian separatists. There is a clear and present atmosphere of media control. The United Nations has already called for action against propaganda and misinformation in Ukraine illustrating the need for a reliable point of view.

As an international media outlet with coverage in Russian and Ukrainian, DW can play a very unique role as an impartial broker of information that provides an unbiased presentation of events directly to those affected. Delivering impartial news and analysis is however a big challenge. While neutrality is a fundamental principle of good journalism, certain information will always take precedence. To compensate for this, we always try and provide a wide range of perspectives.

At DW we have seen the numbers of people using our Russian and Ukrainian news services rise dramatically as the situation continues to escalate. This demonstrates a direct demand for the services of third party media organizations. As the conflict in the region goes on, the truth will only become more unclear. That’s why we feel it is the duty of international broadcasters, like ourselves, to step in and make sure that all facets of the stories are being told – to ensure that everyone can build their own opinions.

Follow me on Twitter for more news and analysis on the situation in Ukraine






2014-05-15 | 11:27



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MIP’s Digital Fronts and the choose-your-own-adventure narrative

Guest Commentary

Benjamin Schnabel, Distribution Representative for Global Partnerships at DW

Benjamin SchnabelMIP Digital Fronts will be the first international digital content marketplace for the production, distribution and acquisition of high-quality original content produced exclusively for online audiences.

Even as television and the Internet merge closer together, online video is still in the early stages of its development as a conventional medium. But in the next few years, it will really take off as audiences become more comfortable with using hybrid television and streaming video. Online networks and channels are beginning to feature programming created specifically for the web that has mass appeal. The fact that MIP is exploring digital fronts indicates it could be where the market is heading in the future.

Traditional news outlets can redefine their place in the digital landscape by producing or distributing innovative and interactive web documentaries. DW has been exploring the world with interactive documentaries for years now. And this definitely shows another direction that interaction, digital content and smart TV could have – a type of “choose your own adventure” documentary.  These productions unlock the multimedia potential of the digital world by combining insightful and interesting journalism with captivating visual settings and video. DW’s WebDocs for example take you deep into the rainforests of Papua New Guinea or the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro. And unlike traditional documentary formats, the user interacts with the environment and can choose actions, questions and decide where the story goes. All of these elements combine to place the user in the journalist’s shoes.

There is a demand on the emerging digital content market for productions that meet journalistic and intellectual standards. While Digital Fronts seems to focus nearly exclusively on entertainment, fiction and series, the large-scale success of documentaries in the recent past like “An Inconvenient Truth” or “Super Size Me” suggest that real stories can also have a place in the digital world. Interactive Webdocs could play that role on digital channels. Take for example NPR’s “Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt” or “Journey To The End Of Coal” produced by the private French studio honkeytonk films and first released on the website of the leading French daily, Le Monde.

There is still a lot of junk floating around in online channels. There is a need to develop content that tries to reach a higher standard and is aimed at digital natives who will use online video portals as their primary source of entertainment. They are seeking high-quality online content that combines news, entertainment and audience participation. By developing and promoting novel video and documentary formats, broadcasters can take the lead in adding quality to digital channels.

If you are interested in working with DW on co-productions or integrating our content into your lineup, just contact our sales team. We will also be in Cannes at MIP from April 7-10.


2014-04-03 | 7:31



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Ensuring a pan-Arabic platform for freedom of expression

Naser ShroufGuest commentary

Naser Shrouf, Head of Distribution for Africa / Middle East 

Political satire in Egypt can be a dangerous business but it is often through humor that people understand themselves better. With his news show Al Bernameg, Bassem Youssef uses comedy to provide a way for Egyptians to laugh at themselves during a very serious time for their country. The program also creates a window looking into Egyptian society and now with DW as a broadcasting partner that window will be opened to a much wider audience.

By adding Al Bernameg to the lineup we at DW are once again showing our commitment to promote and foster advocates of free speech and democracy through working closely with partners around the world. It is a sign of where we want to go as an organization – exploring diverse formats and connecting in new ways with local audiences.

For almost three years Egypt has been struggling to define itself. The function of a free press, that is so vital to this process, has also suffered. Non-traditional media has often filled the void. Al Bernameg, through making fun of political personages and social mores, provides an objective perspective that may look funny on the surface but is serious to the core.

After being taken off the air in November, Al Bernameg is now being broadcast each week, locally and on DW (Arabia). With DW, the show will be ensured an audience stretching from Morocco to Iraq. Freedom of speech and critique of the government are values essential to building modern societies. We think that programs like Al Bernameg are an important component of the media landscape in the Arab world – and we are committed to helping get the message across.




2014-02-24 | 2:40



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German ‘fussball’ is currently the benchmark and the Bundesliga is really worth watching

Mike PortraitGuest commentary

Michael Trobridge, Editor at Kick off!

For football purists, German football has become the benchmark. Its top-flight clubs and the national team have crafted an attacking game that is at times breathtakingly attractive. There’s a real hope here this will finally be the summer that Germany takes home the World Cup after a 24-year drought. After the disappointment of 2010 in South Africa, the Germans are sure to be fierce competitors in Brazil.  And that can only be good news for the Bundesliga.

Fired on by Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund and Bayern Munich under Jupp Heynckes and now Pep Guardiola, the league has been steadily building up a head of steam. Last season saw both sides contest the Champions League final. Bundesliga attendance is setting new records and clubs are in rosy health thanks to strict financial rules. Not only is the Bundesliga currently Europe’s top grossing league in both fans and profits, it has also become the testing ground for international stars drawn by the mixture of traditional football values and high performance. Increasingly, people are talking about Bayern and Dortmund instead of Barcelona and Manchester United. Success at Brazil 2014 would boost the Bundesliga’s reputation even further.

Of course, we always knew here at Kick off! that we were covering the most interesting football league in the world! But it’s taken the Bundesliga’s recent sporting and financial renaissance to really catch the eyes of the soccer world.

We want to serve that international interest with our new Kick off! Youtube channel, produced in English and starting now as the Bundesliga restarts after its winter break. We’re sharing our best interviews and exclusive insider peeks as well as some real pearls from almost a decade of DW’s Bundesliga TV show. Want to know what it’s like to hang out behind the scenes with Bayern at their training camp in Qatar or explore Rio as people there gear up the World Cup? Or play football on motorbikes? It’s all on the Kick off! YouTube channel!

The Bundesliga’s come a long way since it was founded 50 years ago with 16 teams and poorly paid players. In fact, you can see exactly how far with our award-winning series 50 years of the Bundesliga. It’s jam-packed with fabulous archive footage and is guaranteed to bring you right up to date with the world-class league the Bundesliga is today. Which, I believe, is where we came in.





2014-01-30 | 1:47



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