History of the Institute

Emil Dovifat is shown giving visitors a tour of the Institute (1952)
Emil Dovifat is shown giving visitors a tour of the Institute (1952)
Image Credit: Gerd-Viktor Krau / Universitätsarchiv Freie Universität Berlin
Boltzmannstraße 3 (Location of the Institute, 1948-1950)
Boltzmannstraße 3 (Location of the Institute, 1948-1950)
Image Credit: Unknown photographer / Universitätsarchiv Freie Universität Berlin
Fritz Eberhard (1964)
Fritz Eberhard (1964)
Image Credit: Hans-Jürgen Bolle / Collection H. Bohrmann, Dortmund
Elisabeth Löckenhoff (1964)
Elisabeth Löckenhoff (1964)
Image Credit: Hans-Jürgen Bolle / Institute for Newspaper Research (Institut für Zeitungsforschung), Dortmund
Harry Pross
Harry Pross (winter 1978/79); Source: Christa Dericum
Image Credit: Christa Dericum
Alexander von Hoffmann (1982)
Alexander von Hoffmann (1982)
Image Credit: Private photograph
Campus Lankwitz, Building L (Location of the Institute, 1981-2007);
Campus Lankwitz, Building L (Location of the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, 1981-2007)
Image Credit: Ansgar Koch

by Prof. Dr. Hermann Haarmann

When Freie Universität Berlin was founded in 1948, the Institute for Media and Communication Studies was reestablished immediately. The old Institute for Print Journalism Studies had opened its doors in 1925. Founding father of the new school became Emil Dovifat (1890-1969) who had been a professor for print journalism studies at the former Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin since 1928. Dovifats’ understanding of the field was characterized by normative principles and his profound knowledge of journalism practice. During the time of the Third Reich he was seen as a follower of the regime and as a moderate propagandist – which had no impact on his career in the new BRD. Until his retirement in 1959 Dovifat continued his professorship at the Berlin Institute for Media and Communication Studies. In 1961 the school hired Fritz Eberhard (1896-1982), who was the director of the Südwestdeutscher Rundfunk (SWR; the southwestern unit of the German public broadcasting system) and one of the founding fathers of the German constitution, the Grundgesetz. Following Dovifat, Eberhard took on the direction of the institute until 1968. Before the Third Reich he had worked as a labor organizer and continued his engagement underground after the Nazis came to power. Later he immigrated to his wartime exile in Great Britain. Dovifats’ focus on history and his normative orientation was complemented by a stronger fortification of social sciences and empirical communication research by Eberhard. In contrast to traditional print journalism studies he widened the focus of research towards an inclusion of radio and television as objects of research and teaching. From 1952 to 1985 Elisabeth Löckenhoff (1929-1985) joined the institute, at first as Eberhard’s research assistant, later (1972) as a professor with special respect to media and journalism in the GDR.

Student's Movement in the late 1960s

The student’s movement and the extraparliamentary opposition (APO) did not leave the institute without a mark. Academic youngsters radically claimed for science to ground in societal reality. The institute adjusted to these new tones by strengthening the academic reflection of the ties between media and politics. New forms of political communication - such as public hearings, congresses, demonstrations, go-ins, sit-ins or teach-ins - activated (and/or stressed) scientific daywork. This political and societal change also called for the assignment of Harry Pross (1923-2010), the editor-in-chief of Radio Bremen (the public service broadcasting unit of the city of Bremen), who was supported by the students as well as by Fritz Eberhard. Pross promoted the field of journalism practice by introducing practical laboratories and hiring journalism professionals as associate lecturers. At the same time he laid the ground for an extended theoretical rootedness of the institute by adding approaches from the humanitarian disciplines to the research and teaching curriculum (such as semiotics and hermeneutics).

The "Berlin Model"

The assignment of Alexander von Hoffmann (1924-2006) to a professorship for journalism practice in 1974 was a logical continuation of this new tradition. Von Hoffmann had been working as a journalist for one of the leading German weekly news magazines, Der Spiegel, before. During the fourteen years at the institute he initiated a pilot project of continuing education for journalists. Already in 1970, the institute also offered a position to Ivan Bystrina, who had escaped from Prague (Czech Republic) in 1968 and established a research division for “cultural semiotics” – an area which has been continued by Marlene Posner-Landsch as a professor for semiotics and communication theory until her retirement in 2006. The reorganization of the institute in an explicit attempt to tie communication and media theory to journalism practice received wide acknowledgment and support throughout Germany and has, since then, been recognized as the “Berlin Model”.

Restructuring and Removal to Campus Lankwitz

As part of the restructuring of departments at Freie Universität Berlin, the Department for Philosophy and Social Sciences was refaced – same as the institute. The schools were re-founded as separate entities and three new bodies were established: 1. for media studies and communication policy, 2. for communication psychology and sociology, and 3. for semiotics and communication theory. The first new appointment for a professorship on the economics of mass communication was taken by Axel Zerdick (1941-2003). In 1995 the division of these three communication-related schools led to the formation of the Institute for Media and Communication Studies in its current shape. During this process, Gernot Wersig (1942-2006), a representative of informational studies, became a member of the new school.

Expansion of the Institute

After the establishment of the institute, the Berlin media and communication research branch sharpened its profile. In 1985/1986 the institute appointed Lutz Erbring (emeritus) for empirical communication research, Stephan Ruß-Mohl (now in Lugano) for journalism studies and news room organization, and Bernd Sösemann (later at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut at Freie Universität Berlin, emeritus) for the history of public communication. Three new research divisions were created at once. During his time at the Freie Universität Berlin Stephan Ruß-Mohl established the program of continuing education for journalism professionals as an own course of study. Little by little the institute received more faculty staff and academic amplification: Barbara Baerns (emeritus) for public relations research, Winfried Göpfert (emeritus) for science journalism and knowledge communication, Hans-Jürgen Weiß (emeritus) for communication and media research, and Hermann Haarmann for communication history and media cultures. The institute was also accompanied by Erhard Schütz in the field of communication history, who later changed positions to the Humboldt Universität in Berlin and has retired meanwhile. Klaus Siebenhaar joined the school at the same time and is now the director of the Berlin Media Professional School at the Institute for Arts and Media Administration at Freie Universität Berlin.

Dahlem and Bologna

From 2006 to 2011 there were all in all eight new appointments for professorships at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Up to now, nine professors and their staff form the faculty of our institution. In fall 2007 the institute moved back to a new site in Dahlem (where most of the Freie Universität departments are situated) from Lankwitz. Because of the geographical closeness to the Department for Political and Social Sciences, our institute is finally able again to play an active role in shaping the future of the department. As part of the ‘Bologna process’ (an initiative of the European Union to harmonize study programs and academic life in all EU member states), the institute introduced the B.A. program “Media and Communication Studies” in 2003, which became the substitute for the Magister Artium program of the same name. Since the winter term 2008/2009 the M.A. program “Media and Political Communication” complements bachelor’s studies. More master’s programs are in planning.