|Title:||‘It’s not like the Germans to take something that wasn’t theirs’: Exploring issues of ownership and creative borrowing as a challenge for transnational format adaptation through Stromberg|
|Author(s):||Kai Hanno Schwind|
|Citation:||Schwind, K.H. (2018) ‘It’s not like the Germans to take something that wasn’t theirs’: Exploring issues of ownership and creative borrowing as a challenge for transnational format adaptation through Stromberg. Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies. Volume: 13 issue: 2, page(s): 188-206|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The study consists of two interviews with members of the Stromberg production team, Ralf Husmann (head writer and executive producer) and Ralf Günther (producer). Stromberg was accused of copyright infringement by appropriating the style, aesthetics, storylines, and characters of The Office; as such, the authors conclude this is suitable for a study of transnational format adaptation.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
“At the time of its conception, the producers of Stromberg, the German adaptation of the British situation comedy The Office, were accused of copyright infringement. Based on exclusive data from qualitative interviews with the creative personnel, this article contributes to the previously under-theorised field of television comedy production studies in non-Anglophone contexts. Exploring the clash of standardised procedures on the global television market with traditional practices and a distinct production culture in Germany, it challenges established theorisations of television ‘format’ and argues for a more nuanced and case-specific understanding of how adaptation processes facilitate and stimulate creativity across borders.”
Main Results of the Study
The study highlights culturally specific attributes which may impact adaptations.
In Germany, attribution for TV shows is more strongly associated with the broadcaster, as opposed to the creator. Therefore, whilst in this case Husmann (the head writer) was featured prominently as the creator, the author suggests that ProSieben (the television network) was in fact the author, having presumably taken the opportunity to localise a foreign format. This may have been compounded by the fact that Germany has historically been less accustomed to buying adaptation rights, compared to e.g. the USA. Furthermore, given the comparatively late development of sit-coms in Germany (the late 90’s), incentives to adapt may have been driven by the broadcasters desire to “brand” themselves.
The localisation involved a complex and dynamic process, particularly in relation to adapting humour to suit German sensitivities. As such, the study suggests that determining the origins of formats is a grey area, particularly where certain components are common to a genre (e.g. love storylines). The study notes that in the case of Stromberg, individual elements were not assessed, as their stance as rights owner was “simply asserted”. Whilst e.g. game show formats may be more easily determined, scripted formats have not traditionally been challenged. As such, this may be a process of “creative borrowing”, not dependent on an individualistic notion of authorship.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
Whilst the author does not make any explicit policy recommendations, they note that less focus should be paid on conceptualising “formats”, with more emphasis being paid on defining or altering concepts of originality and authorship. Furthermore, adaptations and localisations (e.g. “creative borrowing”) may in fact encourage creativity, challenging the concept of an individualistic and romantic author.