Frankfurt’s ARD Stage: Audience Canceled Amid Rising COVID-19 Rates in Germany

In News by Porter Anderson

Germany’s coronavirus COVID-19 caseload rapidly expands, Frankfurter Buchmesse—on its opening day—eliminates an already limited physical audience presence at several events.

The Festhalle at Frankfurt’s fairgrounds currently houses the ARD Book Fair Stage for television production around this week’s trade show. Image – iStockphoto: Ranier Lesniewski

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

ARD Stage, German Book Awards, Opening Ceremony
As the German federal government raises the alarm over a surge in daily coronavirus COVID-19 infections, Frankfurter Buchmesse has announced this morning (October 12) that its ARD Book Fair Stage will produce its programming without even distanced audience members.

The ARD stage is a physical rarity in this year’s digital evocation of the world’s largest book business trade show. ARD is a consortium of public-service broadcasters from various parts of Germany, and it has set a production studio in Messe Frankfurt’s Festhalle. The program calls for it to televise conversations and discussions from the otherwise empty fairgrounds.

When announced in July, pandemic-mitigation restrictions were such that some 400 peo9plke might have been able to attend an event at the broadcast center. But as in many parts of Europe and the United Kingdom, new jumps in coronavirus infections have triggered new responses. Today’s report from Deutsche Welle details Angela Merkel’s chief of staff warning that social gatherings are expected to be capped and unnecessary travel has to be curbed to help tamp down the autumn upturn.

“While the number of cases and deaths in Germany is lower than in many neighboring countries,” the Deutsche Welle staff writes, “the country has been reporting more than 4,000 daily cases since Thursday, the highest since April.” Merkel and the 11 largest German cities’ mayors have agreed that strict measures are to be triggered if the rate of infection goes over 50 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.

Juergen Boos

Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos, in a prepared statement for today’s announcement about the ARD Stage decision, is quoted, saying, “The health and hygiene concept for Frankfurt’s Festhalle was again reviewed and approved by the local authorities a few days ago.

“Nonetheless, out of consideration for the health of our guests, we have decided to minimize the risk by not opening the Festhalle to the public.

“However, we hope to reach a large number of viewers through our live stream.”

BookFest City Events Still Scheduled

A designer’s conceptual illustrations of the ARD broadcast center planned for the physical Frankfurter Buchmesse shows broadly distanced seating in the Festhalle. Image: FBM

The quickly shifting viral situation is affecting other Buchmesse-related events, as well.

  • This evening’s presentation of the German Book Prize has been held without an audience, as well.
  • The opening ceremony of the book fair—set for 6 p.m. CEST (1600 GMT) on Tuesday (October 13)—will be streamed without live audience. Frankfurt organizers say that 250 guests had registered for the event.
  • What’s more, the opening press conference, which takes place earlier in the day on Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m. CEST, will be streamed without live media attendance.
  • Sunday’s award ceremony for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is now to be broadcast by the ARD network but without its invited audience. The recipient of this year’s prize, Indian economist Amartya Sen, will join the event remotely. German federal president Frank-Walter Steinmeier will give the speech honoring Sen in St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt.

One thing still expected to go forward is the series of BookFest events set at various venues around the city. Those events, organizers say, meet current Hesse state regulations.

The trade show has gotten underway today, meanwhile, with the afternoon-length first of four days of Frankfurt Conference offerings, an academic and scholarly publishing program

At this writing, the 11:23 a.m. ET (1523 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees Germany with 328,273 cases in a population of 83 million and a fatalities count of 9,629.

Stockholm University Library’s Sofie Wennström speaks to moderator Tiberius Ignat during Monday’s academic and scholarly track in the Frankfurt Conference series. Image: FBM

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.