Permissibility of editorial content in official municipal publications

Stuttgart Higher Regional Court last week dismissed an action brought by a private publishing company concerning the permissibility and scope of reporting in the free publication issued by the City of Crailsheim (judgment of May 29, 2019, File Ref.: 4 U 180/17).
The action based on the requirement for independent media concerned various reports published in the municipality’s publication, the “Stadtblatt”, in 2016. Pursuant to the case law of the Federal Court (BGH) official municipal publications are subject to specific requirements. While they are permitted to publish content relevant to their municipal administrative work, the presentation and design of that content is not permitted to be similar to the public media. Isolated contraventions of these boundaries are not problematic. What is decisive is an overall view of whether municipal reporting gives the impression of being “functionally equivalent” to a private newspaper and, thus, a substitute for the press.
Stuttgart higher regional court found in favour of the city of Crailsheim based on the criteria defined for permissible state PR work. The contested issues of the “Stadtblatt” are not to be viewed as a breach of the media independence requirement and rejected the private publisher’s action for injunctive relief. Stuttgart Higher Regional Court did not permit an appeal to the Federal Court, meaning that an appeal against the non-admissibility/denial of leave to appeal is possible.
Menold Bezler provided the city of Crailsheim with comprehensive legal advice on all aspects of competition and constitutional law involved.

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