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W. German TV Offers Kohl's New Year Greeting--a Year Late

January 02, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — West German officials charged Thursday that a television network had deliberately sabotaged Chancellor Helmut Kohl's New Year's speech to the nation Wednesday night by broadcasting last year's speech.

Gerold Tandler, general secretary of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Kohl's Christian Democratic Union, said that broadcasting the year-old speech was "not an accident but intentional sabotage."

Heiner Geissler, general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union, commented, "I cannot imagine that an editor named 'Chance' or a technician named 'Mistake' bears the sole blame for this incident."

The incident occurred as the nation's political parties were gearing up for the Jan. 25 parliamentary elections, which Kohl's forces are expected to win, according to opinion polls.

One television network, ZDF, ran the correct speech an hour before the wrong speech appeared on the network ARD, and many viewers called in to point out that Chancellor Kohl was not wearing the same suit in both appearances.

'Happy New Year, 1986'

ARD aired the full 10 minutes of the wrong speech and most viewers did not suspect that anything was wrong until Kohl closed with, "Happy New Year, 1986."

The government press office demanded--and received--an apology from ARD and that action be taken against those responsible for the error.

ARD agreed to broadcast the correct speech Thursday night. An ARD spokesman blamed the mixup on the way last year's speech was labeled: "New Year's address Federal Chancellor," with the year 1985 in small print.

The spokesman said there was no evidence to indicate that the switch was intentional, insisting that it was all a "terrible accident."

In a statement issued Thursday, Kohl's government said the incident was "an insult to all those watching, who expect enough care from ARD that the current recording of the New Year's speech would be sent."

Opposition View

Some opposition leaders noted that in any case, Kohl's speeches tend to sound alike. A spokesman for the opposition Social Democratic Party, Guenther Verheugen, dismissed the incident with the comment: "The chancellor's New Year's message for 1987 avoided the country's real problems just as the one in 1986 did."

The speech for 1987 emphasized the unity of the German nation and the strengthening of traditional family values, and urged environmental protection.

According to a TV market research firm, more people watched the wrong speech than the right one.

Some viewers said they thought that the chancellor, in the wrong speech, had confused two meetings between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and referred to the November, 1985, Geneva summit instead of last October's meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Kohl's personal reaction to the mixup was described as "harsh."

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