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Next up: Shoplifting, live from Sainsbury’s

I’m sure raiding a private house is a bread-and-butter matter for most police forces.

This week police searched German postal service head Klaus Zumwinkel’s office and house after acquiring evidence that he had hidden billions of pounds in the tax haven of Liechtenstein. Zumwinkel has now resigned from his position.

The novelty, though, was one feature of the raid that marked it out from most. ZDF, one of Germany’s publicly-funded TV stations, covered the operation live, with cameras peaking through the Zumwinkels' now famous green and white garden fence at his Cologne house.

This is a new type of TV reporting. Live sports events or scheduled political events are one thing, but covering a police operation live, as though it were a film scene, raises questions. Couldn’t the suspect benefit from being able to follow the police’s actions live on the telly? Doesn’t this mean the TV station must have been colluding with the police? (We know they were “tipped off”….) And, if they were, isn’t this the definition of biased reporting — siding with one party, thus giving the other less favourable treatment?

ZDF’s editor-in-chief, Nikolaus Brender, defended the network’s actions, saying they would have failed in their duties as a news broadcaster if they had not acted on the tip-off.

A fair thing to say, I guess. But should TV stations be allowed to turn police operations into action movies? Doesn’t this say a lot about our voyeur culture today?

Maybe next Sky News Active will let us flick through live CCTV pictures around the country so we never miss a murder or theft.

Photo: Holiday snaps of Cologne (top) and Liechtenstein. Can you blame Herr Zumwinkel?

Rice and peas politics

Pakistan have managed to sort out a coalition already, but Germany (the country of efficiency, apparently) still can’t do anything as civilised as that. Almost a month after the regional elections here in the state of Hesse, the parties still can’t decide who to work with, so we now have no one officially running this state of six million people. Nonetheless, the clap trap’s quite fun. They have some great terms for different types of coalitions, based on the colours of the different parties. A Christian Democrat/Social Democrat coalition is “black-red” (not very exciting); Social Democrat/Greens is “red-green” (ditto). It gets better though. Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats is a “traffic light coalition” (red, yellow and green). And the best: Christian Democrat, Greens and Free Democrats is a “Jamaica coalition” (black, green and yellow). The Germans are clearly more creative than you thought. Now if only they could stop coming up with names for their government, and actually start forming one…

Just words?

No, this isn’t about Obama. David Cameron got into a spot of bother over a Tory press release describing Labour’s policy of school visits to Auschwitz as a “gimmick”. But one French-speaking Swiss man, Pierre Mirabaud, chairman of the Swiss banking association, has received as much flak — for comparing the German authorities’ methods of acquiring information about Klaus Zumwinkel’s tax affairs to those used by the Gestapo. It seems people are more interesting people’s choice of words than what they actually mean.

A new type of abolitionist

More elections! Hamburgers are voting today. Davids Medienkritik (a blog about the German media, but mostly in English) thinks Social Democrat candidate Michael Naumann said he wanted to “abolish children” in this clip from a TV debate. Any German speakers out there willing to disagree? I think he actually said he wanted to abolish “children fees” (whatever they are…).

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