Above the entrance to the television center of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, the lettering greets: “Don’t get bored”. This smart claim is based on the service that the public institution wants to provide – in radio, television and online programs.
But the RBB is currently running a different program, which is not boring either. The director Patricia Schlesinger, the head of the board of directors Wolf-Dieter Wolf and subsequently the board of directors and the committees got caught up in a maelstrom of conjecture, speculation and actual events. The “complete” investigation now assured by the broadcaster includes the awarding of contracts to consultants as part of the planned construction project for the digital media house in Berlin, the settlement of official dinner invitations by the director and contractual relationships with Messe Berlin. What was for the benefit of the station, what for the benefit of the director and her husband, what for the benefit of the chairman of the board, Wolf-Dieter Wolf?
None of these questions have been clarified because there has been a lack of clarification to date. First of all, only the first employee of the public service broadcaster can do this in bulk and in detail, only Patricia Schlesinger can do it. She promised nothing else, not only to the contributors, but also to the employees and the supervisory bodies. In the workforce, the director has already lost a lot of trust. When the incriminating media reports came up, not least thanks to the leaks from his own company, Schlesinger spoke of “disloyalty”. A harsh reproach to the workforce, where Schlesinger has to be asked whether they have not acted disloyally towards the RBB.
The director has accepted her responsibility, with her declared help, the clarification should progress. That’s not enough, the RBB has control bodies like every public broadcaster. The Broadcasting Council elected Schlesinger for a second term in 2020 with a large majority, and the Board of Directors approved a 16 percent increase in her salary to EUR 303,000. Both bodies have now distanced themselves, they want what everyone wants: clarification. In doing so, they themselves will have to show a stubbornness and obstinacy that contradicts the reputation of these bodies as directors’ electoral association. Now the councils have discovered their responsibility, and they too are demanding an external and thorough review. The fact that the management mandated a law firm that already works for the broadcaster raises doubts about the impartiality of the operation.
When the external auditors get to work, they should not overlook Wolf-Dieter Wolf, the head of the board of directors. In the meantime he is letting his office rest, but the practices of his administration that have become known almost call for meticulous investigations into whether there is embarrassing nepotism in the station, around the station and around the station.
The events in the radio station for Berlin and Brandenburg radiate. In circles of ARD and ZDF, the brow is frowned: What’s going on at RBB? The fear is that the broadcasting policy, which has swung back to a friendly course for the public broadcasters with the new media state treaty, will break out again. Because Patricia Schlesinger is not only RBB director, but also ARD chairwoman – and now an ARD chairwoman with reservations. Important dates are coming up, so the institutions will soon have to submit their financial plans to the KEF contribution committee. From this, the prime ministers will derive the future amount of contributions from 2025. It doesn’t do well if the impression were created that the broadcasters à la RBB are not doing sound business and are acting in the sense of the public values mandate without a doubt.
It is this misalliance, enriched by the unsatisfactory program performance of the RBB with record income of 436 million euros, that shows the station for Berlin and Brandenburg in a bad condition. It is the first director’s duty to correct this picture. Patricia Schlesinger, the director of the RBB and chairwoman of the ARD, is counted.