'Die Hard' in Germany: big ratings, unhappy pols

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COLOGNE, Germany -- German religious leaders and conservative politicians are up in arms after a local network aired "Die Hard" and "Die Harder" during the Easter holidays.

The violent excitement of Bruce Willis taking out international terrorists was a hit with German viewers: Berlin broadcaster Sat.1 won the Easter ratings race, with "Die Hard" grabbing a 16% share on Good Friday and "Die Harder" winning more than 20% on Easter Sunday.

But for some German believers, the films violated the dignity of the Easter holiday. Religious leaders of both Catholic and Protestant denominations called on German broadcasters to show more sensitivity in their choice of programming.

Some conservative politicians went further, calling for a ban on violent programming over Easter.

"The Easter holidays are of central importance to our culture, they are meant to be days of peace and community," said Christine Haderthauer, general secretary of Germany's Christian Social Union party. "Brutal TV has no place in that."

The religious ire was directed solely at secular television violence. "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's bloody take on the Crucifixion, aired on Good Friday without a peep of protest.

Germany already has laws on the books that restrict the kind of programming that can be shown on television or screened in cinemas over the Easter weekend. Horror or splatter films are essentially banned for the three-day period from Good Friday to Easter Monday. The restrictions extend beyond film and TV. German discos and clubs are also shut down for the duration.

But restrictions on television programming are rarely enforced and local broadcasters are increasingly looking at Easter less as a religious celebration than a ratings opportunity.

"I think we can leave it up to the viewer how he wants to entertain himself over the holidays," a Sat.1 spokeswoman said.

And this year, it was the tube. Ratings group media control estimated German viewers spent an average of 4.1 hours a day from Friday through Sunday watching TV, an all-time record.
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