From chancellor duel to triumph: On Sunday evening, for the first time, three applicants for the highest government office face an audience of millions on live television. RTL and ntv make the mark. The moderators Pinar Atalay and Peter Kloeppel can hardly wait and report to ntv.de., how they prepared.
ntv.de: For the first time, three instead of two candidates are running for the big TV debate between the Chancellor candidates, whose parties are even in the polls. At the same time, Annalena Baerbock, Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz are already permanently present on television. Why should viewers still switch to RTL or ntv on Sunday evening?
Peter Kloeppel: It is the first big argument in the hot phase of the election campaign, when the three of them stand in a studio and have to fight for their cause. This is exciting for the audience. And it is certainly exciting for the candidates, because they ask themselves: “Who is dealing with whom here and how?” This is the lucky bag we’re looking forward to.
Pinar Atalay: The three of them are permanently present, it’s an election campaign. But having to react to one another in a confrontation in front of an audience of millions, knowing full well that every hand gesture counts, that every “Uh” and every word is carefully considered, that is what makes the triale exciting. And for the first time we have no incumbent with us. That makes it even more exciting.
More participants means less speaking time for the individual candidates. Are the three of them under even greater pressure to get their messages across in the shortest possible time than the participants in previous TV duels?
Kloeppel: Everyone will be able to cope with the situation, I think. We will also manage this by concentrating on the topics that are of particular interest to the people in the country. Of course, we measure the respective speaking time so that in the end everyone has a similar length of time to speak. So everyone will be able to fight for their theses. And no viewer will be able to say after the broadcast: “Oh, I haven’t heard anything new.”
Other broadcasters are planning further trials. Have there been agreements with your colleagues on the thematic priorities in the individual programs?
Atalay: It is the first time that RTL and ntv are serving alone. In the past election campaigns it was always the case that several broadcasters got together. This time Peter and I discuss as a team of two how we want to organize this evening, what questions we should ask.
Kloeppel: There were no agreements whatsoever with the other broadcasters. We are the first to cross the finish line. We can determine what it is about.
Can you tell us what the main topics will be? Or should we be just as surprised as the candidates?
Atalay: The terrible situation in Afghanistan will preoccupy us, of course also the corona pandemic. But it is not just about the big subject areas, we want to show in the discussion where the differences between the parties lie. The program is intended to help people make their choice.
Kloeppel: It has become obvious in the past 12 to 24 months, if not longer, that we have problems in Germany. Everyone is now promising: it will get better with us. Let us aim at: what is going to get better? And for whom is something going to get worse?
The first chancellor triall on German-language television can be seen on Sunday, August 29th at 8:10 p.m. on ntv and RTL. The group will be moderated by Pinar Atalay and Peter Kloeppel. ntv.de shows the broadcast in a live stream.
As the incumbent, Ms. Merkel has often failed attacks in these duels and relied on her sovereignty. Do you think any of the candidates have a chance to memorize their way through the triall? Vice Chancellor Scholz, for example?
Atalay: There are three professionals, all of whom have been in politics for a longer or longer period. Everyone will try to bring in their own style. I don’t know if anyone will take Merkel as an example. Everyone must have watched the last chancellor duels again. At least that’s what I would have done.
A good keyword: Ms. Atalay, after you switch from Tagesthemen to RTL, the triumph is your first round of candidates. How do you approach your premiere?
Atalay: Of course I saw all the duels live back then, I also checked the 2017 one again. In the past few weeks I’ve been looking at pretty much everything there is to see in preparation anyway. But I have been interviewing politicians for years and have been conducting a political talk for a long time. And yet this show is one of the most challenging programs I can imagine as a news journalist.
For you, Mr. Kloeppel, it is again the sixth TV duel, if I counted correctly. You’re the only man who’s been with them all. What does that mean to you?
Kloeppel: Maybritt Illner from ZDF has also been there from the start, this year too. So I’m not a solitaire in this regard. It is always an honor for me to be able to moderate this show. And it is a particular pleasure for me to have Pinar by my side. During the preparation we realized that we complement each other very well and have a similar understanding of what is important for the audience. And unlike in the past, there are no four of us in the studio this time as questioners.
Atalay: That’s the nice thing: there are two of us and we can really act as a team. And I am very happy to have Peter Kloeppel by my side, who has this incredible experience and has really led through every show wonderfully. I’m looking forward to it.
The meticulousness with which the round of candidates is prepared in the party headquarters is legendary. Sometimes special requests are made to the broadcasters. Chancellor Schröder stood on a pedestal, for example, to compensate for the difference in size with his challenger Stoiber. Were there any demands from party headquarters this time?
Atalay: Peter and I deal completely with the content. We will only meet the candidates shortly before we start and then start right away.
Kloeppel: Platforms are not necessary, as they are all of the same size. Everyone has the same qualifications when they go in there and everyone will get the same water to drink.
Do you hope that there will still be a little surprise, like Merkel’s German chain back then?
Atalay: Back then, everyone was talking about the #Schlandkette on social media the next day. Let’s see what happens this year.
Kloeppel: The funny thing back then was that I didn’t even notice this “Schlandkette”. On the show, I didn’t waste a second thinking: What kind of necklace is she wearing? When this became the trend on social media, in retrospect I just wondered: What are you talking about?
Atalay: You can see in the best sense that we are concerned with the content.
The conversation with Pinar Atalay and Peter Kloeppel was conducted by Sebastian Huld.