Spots for the »Wollt Ihr Wissen« campaign, advocating for Yes in the referendum on Berlin water service

The following 14 spots were produced in winter 2011 for the campaign »Wollt Ihr Wissen« (»You Wanna Know«) which advocated for Yes votes in the citizens-initiated referendum on the Berlin water service, held on February 13th, 2011.

Among others, contributing to the spots were: Jens Best (something with bits), David Hachfeld (Oxfam, spokesperson for economy and globalization), Stephanie Handtmann (Attac Germany, CEO), Markus Henn (WEED, spokesperson for financial markets), Anton Hofreiter (MP, faction of Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen), Heidi Kosche (member of the House of Representatives of Berlin, faction of Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen), Sabine Leidig (MP, faction of Linkspartei), Dr. Motte (DJ and musician), Erasmus Müller (animal rights network Nandu; in 2013 one of the investigative researchers into the conditions of intensive animal farming in the state of in Sachsen-Anhalt), Gerlinde Schermer (member of the House of Representatives of Berlin, social democratic faction), Jan Villwock (psychologist and business consultant) and Peter Wahl (WEED, member of the board).

The »Wollt Ihr Wissen« campaign was developed by the group Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand (Common Goods in Citizen’s Hands) which had grown out of a working group of the Attac network. It advocated to vote Yes in the referendum on re-municipalization of the Berlin water service which had previously been sold in part in a Public Private Partnership. The campaign was conceived as a support to the ambitions undertaken by Berliner Wassertisch (Berlin Water-Table) as the formal initiator of the referendum. Design and production of the »Wollt Ihr Wissen« campaign was in general not dependend of Berliner Wassertisch, an aspect which was cautiosly stressed in public communication by both parts. —

Gerlinde Schermer, together with later Lord Mayor Michael Müller, was among the few members of the social democratic faction in the Berlin House of Representatives who in 1999 voted against the Public Private Partnership on the Berlin water service. Klaus Wowereit was not yet Lord Mayor of Berlin at this time, but instead acted as the spokesperson for public budget of his social democratic faction. As such, Wowereit was in charge for enforcing party discipline in the role call when the Berlin House of Representatives voted on the Public Private Partnership regarding the up-to-then municipal water service.

However, during the »Wollt Ihr Wissen« campaign – Wowereit had been elected Lord Mayor of Berlin in the meantime – Wowereit sent his senator of economics, Harald Wolf (Linkspartei), to the front of the political debate regarding the topic, were Wolf sought to agitate against the referendum. —

The Berlin water service itself had for years steared clear of taking an active role in the debate regarding its partly privatization and re-municipalization. The »Wollt Ihr Wissen« campaign finally managed to draw the water company into taking an active role in the debate, causing it to take voice on the topic for the first time. To this end, the water service company made use of Typosquatting and published its views under eleven domain names which were very similar to the domain name of the original »Wollt Ihr Wissen« campaign. —

After all, the referendum on February 13th, 2011 turned out as the first successful direct democracy referendum in the state of Berlin, reaching the quorum by only a small number of votes, and provided a bitter political defeat to the red-red Administration Wowereit III.

In the election of automn of the same year, the first state-level faction of the german Pirate Party made its way into the Berlin House of Representatives – a success which would have been hard to imagine without the story of the Berlin water referendum, among other circumstances. After the successful referendum, Berliner Wassertisch underwent many transformations and splits. In the end, the pirate faction of the Berlin House of Representatives and Berliner Wassertisch fought at court with grotesque arguments about obscure legal aspects of their temporary co-operation. The group Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand grew into an exclusive club with legal statutes limiting its member count to seven. —

The spots were recorded in the office space of Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand. A microscopic budget was available for production. The office space was located in the ground floor, close to very highly frequented streets of Berlin, such that acoustics were hard to deal with. Besides the spots, I took photographic portraits in color and black-and-white on medium format film, which were used for online advertisements on Facebook. All films were processed by me. Grooming was taken care of by Marc Freitag. Only open source software on Linux was used in post-production of the spots.

Article published on August 12th, 2018.