Steeven Bretz couldn’t keep his seat. For several hours, the main committee of the Brandenburg state parliament has been discussing the scandal surrounding RBB director Patricia Schlesinger in the wide circle of the plenary hall on Tuesday. The Chair of the Broadcasting Council, Friederike von Kirchbach, the Acting Director Hagen Brandstätter, the Deputy Chair of the Board of Directors, Dorette König, and Head of the Staff Council, Sabine Jauer, came to the state parliament to answer questions from the deputies.
But their answers were not satisfactory. “I feel fobbed off on a long leash with en passant information,” railed the CDU member of parliament. “Right now, in the era of fake news, public service broadcasting is what matters – they have all played their part in giving a boost to those who want to end public service broadcasting.”
It became clear in the meeting: There have probably never been any effective controls at RBB. The director, who was dismissed by the broadcasting council on Monday evening, negotiated her bonus contracts with the chairman of the board of directors, Wolf-Dieter Wolff.
“The associated target agreements were not available to us on the Board of Directors,” said König. Wolf has not informed the panel since 2018. “I’ve been trying to get the documents for five days.” After the lunch break, Brandtäter then surprised the deputies with the information that König would receive the documents immediately. A single phone call was apparently enough.
In recent years, however, not every member of the administrative and broadcasting board seems to have received all the information. Because there was a division of responsibilities: According to König, not every member knew everything. “We last talked about the digital media company in March,” said König. At that time, the costs for the prestige project had already risen from around 100 to 125 million. Today it is assumed to be 185 million euros.
“I don’t know that number,” said King. “We would not have agreed to the 185 million.” Brandstäter made a similar statement. “If the 185 million turn out to be actual costs, we have a problem in management,” said Brandstätter. Because the necessary interest cannot be shown. A report by the “Juve” industry service also caused a sensation in the committee.
Accordingly, 17 lawyers from the law firm “Lutz Abel” are currently employed by RBB. With fees customary in the industry, this would indicate costs of more than 20,000 euros a day and 100,000 euros a week, said CDU parliamentary group leader Jan Redmann, who, like his colleague from BVB/Freie Wahler, who was in top form at the meeting, Peter Vida, himself is a lawyer. However, none of the RBB representatives in the main committee wanted to comment on the exact costs and the exact design of the investigation.
The Brandenburg MPs decided on Tuesday to hold a joint hearing with the media committee of the Berlin House of Representatives. An interim report by the Lutz Abel law firm is also to be discussed.
The RBB State Treaty is currently being discussed in both federal states. And on Tuesday, it once again became clear that Brandenburg had every right to fear that it would be neglected in the joint institution.
Brandstätter caused lasting irritation when he characterized Brandenburg as a “travel destination” and “lovable federal state”. “We expect that the RBB program will reflect the fact that it is a two-country institution,” said CDU parliamentary group leader Jan Redmann. “All too often, Brandenburg is only presented as a travel destination and excursion destination for Berliners.” The reality of life in the state is often neglected.
“It is important to us that reporting from Brandenburg will continue to come from the state in the future,” said Green Party leader Petra Budke. This requires strong RBB locations in Potsdam, Cottbus and Frankfurt (Oder). “The course for cross-media reporting must be set now – whether the digital media company in Berlin is needed for this needs to be examined.”
Across factions, the Brandenburg state politicians warned against a premature re-election of the director. First of all, the consequences of the crisis must be drawn. The Greens and the Left also called for employees to have a greater say. “I’m also shocked that the Board of Directors only met every two months,” said Redmann. He again called for the professional skills of the members of the broadcasting and administrative boards. “In Bavaria, at least one member of the board of directors must have a certified public accountant.”
After the meeting, SPD parliamentary group leader Daniel Keller spoke of a “system failure”: “It must be reconsidered whether honorary members of the board of directors, who are verbally briefed before meetings of the board of directors, can act fully responsibly.” If Ms Schlesinger made arrangements with the head of the board of directors about met her personal target agreements and bonus payments, this borders on nepotism and not on the artistic director’s individual freedoms.