There are many ways to express displeasure. This was also shown by the members of the main committee of the Brandenburg state parliament, who met on Tuesday for a special session in Potsdam. The meeting had only one item on the agenda: the “consulting contracts and expenses affair in connection with the RBB director”.
The top management and control level of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) was invited to the special meeting. Specifically, the deputies wanted to talk to director Patricia Schlesinger, Friederike von Kirchbach as chairwoman of the broadcasting council and the head of the administrative board, Wolf-Dieter Wolf. Since he is now retiring from office, Dorette König would have been welcome by the deputy head of the control committee. But all those invited were unable to come to Potsdam, partly because of the ongoing compliance process.
Dennis Hohloch from the AfD expressed his displeasure most sharply, after all, his parliamentary group had made the request for the special session. While most of the other speakers “regretted the absence of those invited,” Hohloch was “dismayed that the two individuals in question are not here today.” The allegations are so blatant that they have to be dealt with in parliament. “It is not enough what is initiated by the RBB itself”. Apparently, the “will to clarify is not as present as reported”.
The state of Brandenburg is in charge of media supervision over RBB, and the Potsdam State Chancellery sent the broadcaster a catalog of questions immediately after the allegations arose. Head of State Kathrin Schneider, SPD, said she expected a “comprehensive and timely clarification”.
“In view of the situation, it would be perfectly appropriate if the director would also let her office rest until the allegations were clarified – without continued payment of the salary,” demanded AfD man Hans-Christoph Berndt. No other party wanted to join this demand. There were also isolated warnings against playing into the hands of the AfD. Otherwise, however, there was amazing agreement in the state parliament committee responsible for media issues that the allegations were causing great damage to the credibility of public broadcasting. Patricia Schlesinger is not only the director of the RBB, but also the acting chairwoman of the ARD since the beginning of the year. Péter Vida, representative of BVB/Freie Wahler, emphasized that there are still no counter-statements to the allegations made by “Business Insider” against Schlesinger and Wolf.
Jan Redmann, parliamentary group leader of the Brandenburg CDU, urged more transparency of the RBB. He demanded disclosure of the investigation commissioned to an external law firm. This applies in particular to the question of whether Schlesinger’s husband was hired as a PR expert for Messe Berlin through Wolf’s mediation. “This is by no means a private matter,” emphasized the CDU politician.
The SPD MP Erik Stohn sees the trust in the RBB “shaken” by the current reporting. He is particularly concerned about the follow-up costs for the digital media house. The RBB announced on Monday that it would put the project on hold for the time being. According to media reports, however, the planning that has already started has already resulted in high interest costs for consulting and project planning, among other things. “It’s not just about a few expense accounts for working lunches, but about an investment in the hundreds of millions.” The question arises as to whether this is fully financed, “because in the end, if the broadcaster is not financially strong enough, the taxpayers in Berlin and Brandenburg step in”.
Instead of the hoped-for clarification of the open questions from the Brandenburg MPs, the committee finally passed a unanimous decision. The state parliament should be informed about the exact order to the chancellery. As soon as the results of the external audit are available, the RBB management will be invited again. In addition, the committee will put together its own catalog of questions for RBB this week – with a two-week deadline for the broadcaster. After that, it should be decided whether there will be another special session before the next regular meeting of the main committee on September 7th – with RBB participation. “Time is of the essence,” emphasized CDU MP Steeven Bretz.
One thing became clear: Even if the main committee is not an investigative committee that can issue subpoenas, Patricia Schlesinger and the other invitees are well advised to face the parliamentarians’ questions directly. “Full clarification is essential. It must be clear that there is no room for nepotism in the RBB,” said Marie Schäffer of the Brandenburg Greens.