Social integration is one of the essential functions of the media. Accordingly, the question arises as to how the integration performance of the media as a whole or of individual media can be empirically analysed. In cooperation with the ZDF and mindline media, the following criteria were defined, based on conceptual considerations, as to how media integration services can be assessed at different levels in the sense of "circumstantial evidence":
- How does media use relate to integration-related values and orientations as well as to individual integration and to the perception of social integration?
Based on a representative telephone survey, it was determined how population groups with different media repertoires differ with regard to these criteria. The differences that emerge underline that certain patterns of media use go hand in hand with specific integration-related orientations, social activities and perceptions of social reality and that media use is thus closely interwoven with processes of social integration.
Findings of the Study
From a public perspective, ZDF's services make an important contribution to the cohesion of society. 62 percent believe that ZDF's programmes promote important values such as freedom of opinion, democracy, equal treatment, tolerance and integration. Eight percent do not agree with this statement at all. 67 percent think that ZDF pays attention in its program to the fact that people are not excluded and are not treated disrespectfully. Only six percent do not agree with this statement at all. The results come from the study "Das ZDF und der gesellschaftliche Zusammenhalt [The ZDF and Social Cohesion]", which the ZDF carried out together with the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans Bredow Institute (HBI) and the research institute "mindline media." For this study, 1205 people aged 14 and older were interviewed.
A majority of the population takes a critical view of the current state of society. According to the respondents, cohesion has declined in recent years. At the same time, however, the vast majority consider social virtues and values to be extremely important - the 14- to 29-year-olds even more so than the average. The ZDF contributes to conveying values and promoting cooperation in society. For example, 57 percent of the population aged 14 and older believe that ZDF films and series show diverse lifestyles and multi-layered characters. Only seven percent do not agree with this statement at all. Among the regular viewers of the ZDF programme family and among the people in Eastern Germany, the approval is even more pronounced with 70 and 66 percent respectively.
The mixture of informative and entertaining offerings is important for integration performance. On the one hand, because it reaches very different population groups. On the other hand, because fictional and entertaining programmes also convey values. According to the study, if the ZDF were to forego its entertainment offerings, it would lose every third viewer (34 percent), especially younger viewers (14 to 29-year-olds: 46 percent), as well as East Germans (38 percent) and democracy dissatisfied viewers (39 percent). Further information can be found in the specialist article "Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt in Zeiten des medialen und gesellschaftlichen Wandels [Social Cohesion in Times of Media and Social Change]" (Media Perspektiven 11/2019): https://kurz.zdf.de/medpergz
An overarching objective of the study was to better understand the performance of media for social integration as a whole. A simple proof of cause and effect between a media offer and social integration does not go far enough. For this reason, various indicators were identified which, taken together, speak in favour of integration services.
Prof. Dr. Uwe Hasebrink, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut, says, "The pilot study initiated by ZDF illustrates how closely media use is linked to values, attitudes and social activities in everyday life. People who use a broad spectrum of media or belong to the regular cast of public service programmes show higher values regarding tolerance, satisfaction with democracy, willingness to help, political commitment and membership in social organisations."