My thesis fills a gap in research, literature and our understanding of transitioning media in post-socialist countries. It tells the fascinating and complicated story of a press moving from state control to a Western free press model. The focus lies on the German Democratic Republic (GDR) between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 until after German unification in October 1990. It is a story untold in English-language literature, and it is a largely ignored part in contemporary German media history. Being written for an international readership while engaging largely with a unique moment in German and international media history, this thesis bridges a gap between national, continental and academic disciplines. Its primary question is in how far the democratic potential that existed in the moment of revolutionary change in 1989/1990 found its institutional and/or political manifestation in the post-socialist East German press. Contrary to current research, it answers this question by approaching it from the perspective of an expanding Western democratic, and market economic order. It is, thus, not concerned with case studies or one press-related sector but looks at structural change on various levels; its focus lies on the simultaneous battles fought over a free press. Core concern is the intersection between the normative role the press holds in a democratic society and that of a newly developing, or rather established expanding Western market economy.
My thesis analyzes three press-related sectors within a transitioning political setting: first, the opening of the GDR to (and sale of) West German print media; second, the reform and building of distribution infrastructures, and, third, emerging East-West joint ventures and subsequent changing newspaper ownerships. While closely interlinked, reforming distribution became the point of conflict over which issues of a “free press” were being debated. This thesis shows that nothing that happened in the GDR before, during and after the transition happened in isolation nor was it an exclusively East German problem. Instead, East Germany became the battle ground for various interests groups, East and West, but with clear and all-overshadowing interests of West German political and economic groups. These groups generally expanded and continued their long-established interests and disputes onto the newly opened political arena and economic market. Aiming for power at different levels, all had an interest in influencing media and its policies to their own advantage or, by simply circumventing them, created situations on the ground that, once put into place, were hard to change.
The introduction and conclusion of my defense draft can be found here.