TV Journalism, Infotainment, and Reality TV

“Team Wallraff,” “Undercover Boss,” and the 2014 Burger King Scandal in Germany (As Seen on TV!)

in German Politics and Society
Jörg Neuheiser History, University of California San Diego, USA

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This article analyzes the role of tv formats in the 2014 Burger King scandal in Germany as part of the popular representation of work, work-related conflicts, and the dynamic of power relations in both contemporary German companies and the German economy in general. It shows that investigative journalistic techniques in popular tv formats like Team Wallraff are essentially undermined by the existence of reality tv shows like Undercover Boss that use comparable techniques to present fundamentally different messages about companies, work conditions, and the relationship between employees and employers. I argue that to understand the effect of these representations of politics on the “real political arena,” in Germany and elsewhere, we should consider not only individual films, tv series, genres, and media formats, but also the cross-effects of multiple, often widely differing representations of politics in similar tv formats that can be viewed via identical media outlets.

Contributor Notes

Jörg Neuheiser is a Visiting Associate Professor at ucsd, sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (daad). Before coming to San Diego, he was an Assistant Professor at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen (2009–2017) and a Lecturer at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (2008–2009). In 2013–2014, he was a Fellow at the Historisches Kolleg in Munich. His research interests are Modern European history with a special focus on German, British, and Irish history; the political mobilization of social groups from among the lower classes; and the history of labor.

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