Why is the BBC enabling a Nazi sympathiser to promote the interests of German brothels?

On 10May 2021, the BBC released a short film called Covid-19 Pandemic: Sex Workers in Germany ‘At Risk,’ which featured Andre Nolte, a man who publicly flaunts his Nazi sympathies.

We have submitted a complaint to the BBC and have included the wording we used at the end of this article. You are welcome to copy and paste from it if you would also like to make a complaint about this film.

Update 01 June 2021: We have received a response, which we have included after the text of our complaint below.


The ostensible message of the film is that “sex workers” are suffering because the German government has imposed restrictions on the industry as part of the general business lockdown in response to Covid.

But behind the smoke and mirrors, the real motivation for this apologia for the German sex industry is not hard to see: the industry and its powerful vested interests are losing profit. The piece exploits the plight of its frontline workers in order to make a bid for public sympathy by promoting the notion that their “work” has been made more dangerous by the government’s temporary freeze on the sex industry.

Prostitution is legal in Germany. Prior to the Covid lockdowns, the industry made an estimated €15 billion profit annually – most of which went into the pockets of pimps, brothel operators and human traffickers – and more than a million men visited brothels every single day – while the conditions for the women in the brothels are recognized to be appalling.

Between 60% and 90% of the women involved in prostitution in Germany are there against their will  and under the control of a pimp, meaning that they fall under the international definition of human trafficking. And almost all struggle under gig economy conditions, without employment rights.

Throughout the film there are statements that mislead about the reality of prostitution and attempt to normalize it.

In the opening sequence Jana said, “We do a normal job, a great job which is very important for society.” But prostitution is not a “normal job” – it is fundamentally unlike any other job.

While workers who suffer health and safety risks in other industries (such as construction and healthcare) are performing important social roles, prostitution has no positive role for society. It shores up men’s superiority and entitlement – and so directly contributes to the epidemic of male violence against women and girls that we’re now living through – and entrenches the disadvantages of the women directly involved and also of all women and girls.

Thanks to the mainstreaming of violent and degrading pornography, prostitution now involves risks of contamination, not just with saliva and semen, but also increasingly with urine, faeces and even blood. Rape and sexual and physical violence are rife. In any other workplace environment with such risks, workers would be obliged to wear PPE – even before the pandemic. Such protections are impossible in prostitution without changing its very nature.

Andre Nolte claims that the health risks of prostitution are little different from hairdressing and that “even if you were seeing a lot of clients it’s actually not a lot of contact compared to other types of industries where they’re able to work.” For the BBC to present this as unbiased is indefensible.

The film describes Andre Nolte as a “sex worker and industry spokesman”. He is introduced as representing an opinion that there is an ulterior motive behind the German government’s temporary suspension of legal prostitution. According to him, this motive is not concerned with public safety in the context of Covid, but represents “an attack on the industry itself”.

This man is presented by the BBC in terms that imply he is a reputable source of information. He is in fact a notorious “dominator”, a man who invites clients to pay him to act out sexual fantasies involving power and subjugation. In these games he dresses as a Nazi officer. His website is filled with photographic images of him posing in Nazi uniform.

Is there any other area of social or economic policy where the BBC would give a platform to a person who publicly flaunts his Nazi sympathies? Was any due diligence exerted by the BBC before this story was posted on its website?

We are fully aware that the lockdowns and closure of business in response to Covid has been catastrophic, particularly for those in the gig economy. We would, however, expect the BBC to have an analysis that extends beyond simply calling for more of the exploitative practices that makes those workers so vulnerable.

One of the survivors of prostitution in our group made the astute observation that the German sex trade profiteers are running scared because the Covid shutdown has shown that men can survive without using prostitution and that the Nordic Model approach is a real working alternative to the German free-for-all.

The BBC’s Editorial Standards (paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3) state that audiences trust the BBC and expect them to adhere to the highest editorial standards; their journalism must seek to establish the truth and provide coverage that is fair and accurate; and in exercising freedom of expression, they must offer appropriate protection to vulnerable groups and avoid causing unjustifiable offence.

The BBC’s Mission specifies that they must ‘act in the public interest’ and must prevent people being misled by the statements or actions of individuals or organisations.

We fail to see how this piece has met these standards or fulfilled the BBC mission. We would ask the BBC to remove it from their website and that in future they ensure that any coverage of the sex industry is undertaken with more responsibility so that it doesn’t simply repeat the propaganda of this most abusive, misogynistic, and exploitative system. We also call for BBC journalists who are covering the sex trade to have training on the conditions of prostitution and how to use language so it doesn’t sanitise and euphemise the system of prostitution.

Our complaint

Here is the text of the complaint that we submitted. You are welcome to copy and paste all or part of this, if you want to make a complaint yourself.

What is your complaint about?

BBC website or apps

Which website or app is your complaint about?

BBC News website

Please give the URL, or name of the app

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-57029723

What is the subject of your complaint?

Misleading info that sanitises a violent industry

Please enter your complaint (2,000-character limit)

The film makes numerous statements that mislead about the reality of prostitution and attempt to normalize it.

Jana said, “We do a normal job, a great job which is very important for society.” But prostitution is NOT a “normal job”. While workers who suffer health and safety risks in other industries (such as construction and healthcare) are performing important social roles, prostitution has no positive role for society. It shores up men’s superiority and entitlement – and so directly contributes to the epidemic of male violence against women and girls that we’re now living through – and entrenches the disadvantages of the women directly involved and of all women and girls. It is anathema to sex equality.

Thanks to the mainstreaming of violent and degrading pornography, prostitution now involves risks of contamination, not just with saliva and semen, but also urine, faeces & even blood. In any other workplace environment with such risks, workers would be obliged to wear PPE – even before the pandemic. Such protections are impossible in prostitution without changing its very nature.

Andre Nolte claims that the health risks of prostitution are little different from hairdressing and that even if you see a lot of clients, it’s “actually not a lot of contact compared to other types of industries.” For the BBC to present this as unbiased is indefensible.

The film describes Andre Nolte as a “sex worker and industry spokesman” and implies that he is a reputable source of information. He is in fact a notorious “dominator”, a man who invites clients to pay him to act out sexual fantasies involving power and subjugation. In these games he dresses as a Nazi SS officer. His website is filled with photographic images of him posing in SS uniform.

Is there any other area of social or economic policy where the BBC would give a platform to a person who publicly flaunts his Nazi sympathies? Was any due diligence exerted by the BBC before this story was posted on its website?

The Response from the BBC

From: BBC Complaints 
Date: Mon, 31 May 2021 at 12:13
Subject: BBC Complaints – Case number CAS-6753819-D8L2W4
To: Anna Fisher – on behalf of Nordic Model Now!

Reference CAS-6753819-D8L2W4

Dear Ms Fisher

Ref 6753819

Thank you for writing in with your feedback about the BBC News Website story “Covid-19 pandemic: Sex workers in Germany ‘at risk’” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-57029723).

I note your concerns about the footage of the sex worker Jana, who says: “I get a basic income each month from the Government, so my rent and things like that are paid. There should be a possibility to get back to work. We’re normal people. We do a normal job, a great job, which is very important for society. You can’t wish us away. Otherwise the business goes underground”.

Prostitution and brothels are legal in Germany, and the investigation sought to shine a light, as we have done in many other sectors, on an industry that has seen places of work shut down by the pandemic since March 2020.

Of course we don’t claim that Jana and Andre Nolte are themselves unbiased in the context of these interviews – they are speaking of their own views and experiences from the perspective of sex workers – but this is clearly signposted in the piece. Of course it is up to our audience to make up their own minds about it.

The BBC does not take a position about sex work, and has reported comprehensively about many different aspects, which can be found in our aggregated index: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c8xml3g0716t/prostitution.

While I am satisfied that the piece does not breach our Editorial Guidelines, please be assured that we value your feedback about this. All complaints are sent to senior management and your points were included in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future content.

Thank you again for taking the time to correspond with us.

Yours sincerely

Tara McBride

BBC News Website

BBC Complaints Team 
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

Further reading

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