Guest Lecture: Cultural diversity at WDR

All Categories, Inside CBS   -  20. May 2019

With over 4,400 employees in North Rhine-Westphalia and throughout the world, the German public-broadcasting institution WDR (West German Broadcasting) is not only the largest media company in Germany, but is also characterised by a high degree of cultural diversity among its workforce. Iva Krtalic, representative for integration and intercultural diversity at WDR, explained the tasks and challenges of this commitment to intercultural mix as a social norm in her guest lecture to the students of the CBS General Management course.

Promoting diversity as a core goal in the canon of values

As a result of demographic change, the proportion of people with a migration background in Germany’s population is rising steadily. Depending on the definition, it is expected to grow by more than 30 percent. WDR has been actively working on promoting cultural diversity in the personnel, in order to better reflect the development of the audience of the broadcaster. In her presentation, Iva Krtalic mentioned initiatives and programmes with which the institution wants to promote diversity: “In 2007, we were the first public broadcaster to sign the “Charta der Vielfalt” (Charter of Diversity). We have thus committed ourselves to creating an environment that is free of prejudice and take this very seriously in our work. We regularly evaluate our progress and the obstacles we face in achieving our integration goals and readjust where abuses become apparent.”

Initiative „Talentwerkstatt WDR grenzenlos“

The growth of the population’s proportion with a migration background holds a lot of potential – both in terms of recruiting new employees and opening up new topics. “We see cultural diversity as a potential and motor for creativity. We have created the „Talentwerkstatt WDR grenzenlos“ (WDR talent workshop without borders) in order to attract journalists with international biographies. With this workshop and seminar concept, we support young media professionals from immigrant families and open up perspectives for them in our company,” says Krtalic. As the representative for integration and intercultural diversity at WDR explained, the journalist career in Germany is often perceived as very elitist and academic, which intimidates some migrant talents.

Sensitisation to one’s own perception

How susceptible we all are to stereotypical thinking was demonstrated by Iva Krtalic in a short film. A woman wearing a headscarf was asked about her experiences with the “Sendung mit der Maus” (children’s series “The Show with the Mouse”). “At first the viewer is irritated as the show is perceived as ‘typically German’ and the woman with the headscarf as ‘not German'”, explained Krtalic. She described this phenomenon as “blind spots”. These are personality traits that elude one’s own perception. Intercultural training is one way of creating awareness of these “blind spots” among WDR staff.  Finally, Krtalic called the channel’s intercultural opening as an important step in offering its viewers and employees a high potential for identification with WDR. Therefore, their motto for the future is: More diversity at WDR!

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