The RIAS Berlin Kommission celebrated its 25th anniversary on Monday in Berlin with a gala fest at the historic RIAS Funkhaus broadcasting building, together with more than 200 RIAS Berlin Kommission Fellows from the last quarter century and prize winners from seven categories of this year's distinguished Media Prize awards.
A report by CBS's 60 Minutes on the state of prisons in Germany compared to the United States was awarded with the best TV film prize – the first U.S. TV film prize winner in more than five years. Even though 60 Minutes has won scores of prizes in the United States for outstanding broadcast journalism, CBS correspondent Bill Whitaker and producer Marc E. Lieberman told the audience how honored they felt to win after a short three-minute excerpt from their stirring film "Crime and Punishment" was screened.
"It was eye-opening to see the magnitude of difference between prison life in Germany and in the United States," said Lieberman. "We hope our story helped inform the debate about crime and punishment in the United States."
Earlier this year, Bill Whitaker recieved the RTDNF Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award.
ARD Tagesthemen anchor Ingo Zamperoni shared his life-changing experiences as a RIAS fellow in the United States back in 2004 in a keynote speech, as did MC Petra Gute of RBB TV, who was a fellow in the United States in 2000. Kent Logsdon, acting American ambassador to Germany and honorary chairman of the RIAS Berlin Kommission exchange program, and Dr. Willi Steul, the director general of Deutschlandfunk radio where the program is based, spoke about the intrinsic value and lasting importance of transatlantic exchanges.
Jan Böhmermann and Ralf Kabelka of ZDF’s Neo Magazin Royale also expressed their delight at the ceremony to be honored with the Special Jury Prize award for their entertaining, satirical and yet prescient look at the mood in the United States just before the election. "I think he's going to win," Böhmermann speaks into the camera, referring to Republican candidate Donald Trump, in the film that was aired just five days before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016. "I think he's going to pull it off," Böhmermann adds. Kabelka told the audience how he had started his career in journalism working for RIAS in the very same building nearly 30 years earlier.
In the radio category, Rebekka Endler of DRadio Wissen’s report “White Cop, Black Kids” won this year's prize for her gripping examination of racism in a small Bible Belt town in Arkansas. The Digital Media Prize was won by a Deutsche Welle team led by Ines Pohl that took a comprehensive, multimedia, multilingual look at what was on the hearts and minds of Americans before the election in a report called #whatAmerica do you want? The Disunited United States”.
ARD correspondent Sandra Ratzow was awarded the TV Award in the Short Film category for her moving report called "Getrennte Familien – Wiedersehen am Hochsicherheitszaun" about how separated Mexican families meet on opposite sides of a high-security fence on the U.S.-Mexico border in California.
There were also two awards handed out to RIAS Fellows honoring their work for their media after their RIAS fellowships. Martina Buttler (a RIAS fellow in the United States in 2003) was honored for her two outstanding radio stories from the United States about Donald Trump and undocumented aliens living in fear of deportation while Paige Sutherland of New Hampshire public radio (who came to Germany with RIAS in 2016) drew from her three-week RIAS Fellowship in Germany to take a deep dive into how policy makers and social workers in Berlin have tackled a problem that also plagues her home state of New Hampshire: drug addiction.