Anne Won’t Come Back: The End of a Success Story

Hanover. Not just any political talk show that ends with “Ann Will.” It might be death Political talk show. The place where everyone from Angela Merkel to Greta Thunberg has been. And the talk show, featuring by far the most popular slot machines, hit Sunday night with the highest ratings – right after the ARD thriller.

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“Anne Will” is a success story—even if it had a rocky start: in 2015 about 1.5 million people watched each show, and a year later it averaged four million. Over the years, the show has become the leader in the genre. 2021 is considered to be the most successful year yet. At 31 issues, “Ann Well” achieved an average market share of 15.2 percent. In 2022 it will be 15.1.

Not anymore. Journalist Ann Weil does not want to extend the contract. It was announced by NDR Producers on Friday. The landmark program will be broadcast for the last time in December 2023 – after 16 years, as long as Angela Merkel has been chancellor. what’s left?

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From sports coverage to the hottest topics of the day

Ann Weill’s foray into the talk show got off to an unusual start. Because the journalist actually comes from sports. He will initially work with “Kölnische Rundschau” and “Spandau Volksblatt”, and then complete an internship at the SFB (today the RBB) in Berlin. At the same station, she finally became famous for the program “Sportpalast”.

In 1999, Will was the first woman to present “Sportschau”, which had previously been dominated by men, and a year later she was ARD’s broadcaster of the Sydney Olympic Games. She suddenly became known to a wide audience as a sports reporter.

The journalist’s interests were diversified even then. At SFB, Will moderated the talk show “Mal Ehrlich” at a young age, and later the entertainment show “Parlazzo” at WDR. And in 2001, Will finally made the jump to the political genre: As successor to Gabe Bauer, she took over the helm of Tagstemen.

Gauche’s cancellation clears the way for Will

The fact that the journalist gets her own Sunday night talk show after six years, is a combination of several circumstances. Will’s predecessor, Sabine Christiansen, gives up her standout talk on ARD’s Sunday evening show in the summer of 2007. Recently, the show’s ratings have plummeted, and Christiansen’s questioning style has come under frequent criticism—a bit of conflict, too boring, It is often said.

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The presenter is also specially drawn abroad. ARD has been desperately searching for a successor for months – and thinks it’s finally found one: Showmaster Gunter Gauch. It is actually under contract with RTL – but ARD is toying with the idea of ​​being able to share the leading broker.

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The plan fails. Jauch canceled because ARD insisted he should work as an “exclusive journalist” for Das Erste – the showrunner disagrees. In addition, Jauch had to give responsibility for his program to the chief editors of the ARD. The medium said at the time that this did not correspond to his feeling of “inner freedom and external independence.”

The first broadcast caused criticism

Only the abolition of the showrunner clears the way for Anne Will. ARD directors choose the then 41-year-old presenter to succeed Christiansen. “Ann will – and maybe”, The title was “Spiegel” at the time. The new talk show is produced by Will Media GmbH, run by Ann Will herself, in the Berlin Adlershof studio.

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In her first statement, Weill articulates her—unsurprisingly—goals for her new program: She wants to offer “a current, social and political round of conversations that address topics, but also identify special topics.” To give up the “topics of the day” for the sake of this but difficult, as the journalist would say at the time. She will be succeeded by Karen Musga.

Reactions to Will’s first performances were initially mixed. There is even criticism from our ranks: The ARD Program Advisory Board believes that the concept hasn’t changed much compared to the previous format by Sabine Christiansen. The will to “respond flexibly to the course of discussions” will not succeed. Problems with certainty of facts are also criticized. The show’s “timing” is bad because it “often ends abruptly.” Contributions “often led to breaks in the discussion”.

Support from the top ARD

This can also be read in press reviews. Michael Hanfield describes Will’s sobriety after the first broadcast In the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” As “clumsy” – the mood is not particularly different from the scenario of the end of the world with Sabine Christiansen. Within the ARD, Will’s new talk show is “controversial” like that DWDL media reports. Even politics gets involved at some point.

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Friedbert Pfluger, leader of the parliamentary group in the Berlin Chamber of Deputies, demands nothing less than the cancellation of the parade. Instead, fellow Will Frank Blasberg should take his spot on his “Hart aber Fair” show, says the politician. The reason: The show is “more and more characterized by lies, half-truths, and conscious distortion of facts.” And: “As a member of the RBB Berlin Broadcasting Council, I will advocate for Mrs. Weil’s replacement.”

Weill gets support from the ARD leadership: “The demand is absurd and the accusation of willful distortion of the facts is wholly unwarranted. We did not for a second doubt the competence of Ann Weill and the content of her programme,” said Günther Struve, ARD’s program director at the time.

That should give way to Jauch’s talk show

Criticism fades over time. In the following years, “Anne Will” became a hit, but it still remained under the radar for a long time.

Then in 2011, the next low blow for the format: After renewed long negotiations, ARD finally managed to win Günther Jauch its own talk show. A contract was agreed with the gallery manager, and Jauch is said to have received €6 million according to industry information – annually. Ann Will Must Go – Her show will be moved from Sunday to Wednesday evening.

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Jauch’s experiment failed

However, Jauch’s talk show did not become the talk show hoped for. His interview style has been ripped off in the media many times, and his talk show setting, the echo gasmeter, is never crowd-pleasing.

The odds are not bad, but they are not great either. There are always disagreements, such as the legendary controversy over the finger of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Nor does Jauch himself seem happy with his work at the ARD, as he later revealed in interviews.

The experiment ended in 2016 – and Anne Weil returned to her old place.

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Even the counselor comes – up to four times

Here the show becomes a success story in the following years. Prominent politicians meet, argue, greet and debate. Armin Laschet, Peter Altmaier, Norbert Röttgen (CDU), Wolfgang Kupecky (FDP), Analina Borbock (Grenz) and Olaf Schultz (SPD) have been among the regular guests at the fair for years. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, FDP politician, describes Weil’s interview style for RND Today as continuous and consistent. Leader of the Left Party, Janine Whistler, said visits to the gallery were always “controversial, stimulating and always an exciting challenge”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Principal Anne will talk about it before the broadcast begins

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Principal Anne will speak before the start of a program on the topic “Debate over refugee policy in Germany”. (archive photo)

The chancellor is coming too – and makes Ann Will the greatest voice on the crisis. For the first time in 2015, the editorial team dedicated a program to Merkel in which she was the only guest – it was about the refugee crisis. Here, too, Merkel repeats her now-famous “we can do it” line. Although this was actually celebrated for the first time at a federal press conference, it was after Will aired that the formula finally became a symbol of the crisis, often recited and exploited. Followed by another interview a year later, and then another interview at the G7 summit.

In Corona Year Two, the Chancellor takes advantage of the show’s attention again to interview Will alone. One year into the pandemic and after a winter of severe lockdown, Merkel has commented on the rift between the federal and state governments. Merkel commented on the difficult negotiations: “I will not sit idly by for two weeks” – and pushed for further restrictions.

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Negative price “Golden Potato”

Not everyone likes the direction the show has taken over the years.

In 2019, along with all other ARD Talk formats, Will received a negative “Golden Potato” award from the New German Media Makers Association. The statement said that the four political talk shows revealed qualitative differences in content and implementation. However, all four would time and again create a distorted image of living together in the country of emigration Germany and exaggerate the problems. In doing so, they contribute to reinforcing prejudices.

Even if the criticism is justified, “Ann Will” is still considered an exception to the aforementioned talk shows. At the end of the year, ARD should not only lose its most successful talk show — it might also lose its most dangerous show.

The most serious of talk shows

Guests and subjects on general political talk shows have been a topic for years. It is criticized time and time again that these programs are not really about political debate – but rather about entertainment. Under these conditions, the editors and Will as coordinator were able to maintain a certain quality standard.

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His colleagues, Sandra Maischberger and Frank Blasberg, had repeatedly given way to populist causes. With clear program titles and questions, the focus is on the greatest possible impact and regularly cause anger – The composition of the guests did the rest.

Will has remained surprisingly consistent over the years – and really close to it. Here we did not discuss mainstream culture and asterisks, Sunday evening was devoted to really important issues. With the decision, initially due to the pandemic, to forego studio audiences in the future, the quality of the discussions has also increased.

It was not clear at first who should replace the more serious talk show host in the future. ARD now has one year to find a worthy successor to Ann Weill. Günther Jauch, it seems obvious, it probably won’t be.

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