On 29 February 2012, we welcomed Dirk Gerkens, the CEO of the RTL Klub at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium as a guest of the MCC Partnership project team. He held a presentation about media management and the Hungarian television industry. Before the event, we had the chance to make a short interview with him, a rare occasion in his practice.
Mr. Gerkens, if we type your name in the browser of the home page of the RTL Klub we do not get any hits and an average man in Hungary knows only a little about you. Are you doing your work from the background deliberately?
Yes, I believe it is not really my role to be in the spotlight beyond the industry itself. Of course everybody in the industry knows me but for the people of the street it is more interesting to know our programs or our stars. I deliberately do not want to appear on RTL Klub because I do not think it is my role. Of course, when for example there is the election of the most influential media person of the year, if it happens to be me, I am ready to say a few sentences but these are rare occasions. I better leave it to my head of programming, Péter Kolosi to talk about the programs and the stars. I was really often asked to give interviews but not anymore, as journalists know that I do not do it. So it is done on purpose, I would say.
What attracted you to the world of media?
When you have the chance that your work is your hobby, it is a fantastic luxury. I did not imagine myself working in a bank, at an insurance company or in a shoe factory. Media... it happened a bit by accident. I got interviewed by Bertelsmann for my first job in Spain, so I got to the publishing business. Once you are in the media, it is very difficult to get out of it: it is a really passionate sector and I would not make a distinction between different types of media but I think TV is the most exciting one. It is an everyday challenge, you can never sleep on your success, there are new programmes, new ideas, and it is a never stopping business. It is one of the best sectors you can think of to work in. And TV is like football: everybody has his opinion about programmes and how to do things better.
How well were you acquainted with the television watching habits of Hungarian people? How was the post-communist market different from the Western market?
It is not that different today, however, when we started in 1997 TV was not that developed here. MTV was dominating and there were a few cable channels. But in 15 years it has become one of the most competitive markets of Europe with more than 100 channels. We tried to introduce recipes that had worked at other stations of the Group. Some succeeded, some failed, but it is not that different market: what works in Western Europe tends to work here, however it is important to get acquainted with the local taste. For me it was a bit surprising to see Dáridó on Friday night on TV2 as an absolute winner for a long time. I had some strange views at the beginning but then you get acquainted with the habits.
To what extent are you able – and willing – to blue-pencil the programs on air?
It is the job of the programming director. Of course we discuss together in a programming committee what we are going to put on air at the end. My role is to fit in the financial constraints, but otherwise I give a lot of freedom to the guys who really deal with the scheduling. I get involved in it but my main focuses are sales and strategy of course.
How would you characterize the quality of today's Hungarian television? Is it in accordance with the European standards?
I think it is absolutely of European standard. There is a huge competition, commercial stations are putting a lot of money in programming and production quality is very high. When you watch X-Faktor, you can see that this broadcast could work well also on a Western European channel. The Hungarian television industry is extremely developed, with a very high level and rich offer.
What is your opinion about the Hungarian public media?
A state TV should play a role of a state TV and not try to compete with the commercial stations. It has to provide an alternative to the viewers. Sometimes, I do not have the feeling it is really doing that.
Thank you for the interview!
Az interjút Knáb Tamás és Huszár Gergely készítette.
A győztes csapatban MCC-s hallgató és alumna is szerepelt
"Változatos feladatok, intelligens, kommunikatív társaság, a felvételi fogalmával számomra mindaddig összeegyeztethetetlen hangulat"