When Patricia Schlesinger was elected director of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg in April 2016, great hopes were placed in the investigative journalist and moderator (“Panorama”). Schlesinger came with ambitious plans and didn’t waste any time in turning the station inside out. In the past few weeks, however, the reform broadcaster boss has become a self-defence director. It is about allegations of compliance violations, nepotism and wasteful use of the contributions of the fee payers. In the meantime, her chair as chairwoman of ARD, which she has held since the beginning of the year, is also shaking. There is talk of an early resignation, as the specialist publication “Horizont” reports. Accordingly, those responsible for ARD are urgently looking for an appointment for a meeting at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, in which as many directors as possible should take part. The extension of the ARD chairmanship should initially be discussed in September.
Officially, the Tagesspiegel was informed in unison when asked by all ARD stations about how the allegations against the director of the RBB were evaluated: “We trust in the investigation process.” But this trust is in bad shape, as the broadcasters admit hear is. So far, no artistic director has publicly presented himself to the ARD chairwoman.
Schlesinger’s counterparts have a big problem. Your first term as ARD boss expires at the end of the year, the confirmation should actually take place in September. Until then, the result of the external review initiated by the RBB by the law firm Lutz Abel will not be available. But without this certificate, re-election is hardly possible, especially since new allegations keep coming up. The ARD needs strong leadership right now. New state media treaties are being negotiated in the state parliaments. In addition, the new applications must be submitted to the Commission for determining the financial requirements of the public broadcasters. A discussion about “digital palaces” and “luxury company cars” is pure poison.
Within the ARD, the time after Patricia Schlesinger’s presidency is already being considered. She could either resign or forgo a second term. As a successor, Schlesinger’s predecessor Tom Buhrow from WDR could be considered, at least temporarily. He has the experience that the apparatus at WDR could be quickly reactivated. In variant number two, the chairmanship of SWR director Kai Gniffke is preferred. However, he has only been in office since 2019.
A waiver of a second term as ARD boss does not necessarily mean the end of Schlesinger’s directorship in Berlin and Brandenburg. On the contrary, she could then fully take care of the further clarification in the RBB. From a legal point of view, she and the head of the RBB board of directors, Wolf-Dieter Wolf – he is currently on hiatus – are initially not threatened by anything. The responsible Berlin public prosecutor’s office has rejected a complaint by the AfD and cannot see any initial suspicion that would justify investigations.
Patricia Schlesinger hired media lawyer Christian Schertz to examine the allegations under press law. But even weeks later, no revocations or counter-notifications are known.
First, the state chancellery in Potsdam, as the responsible media supervisor for the RBB, reacted to the allegations and asked those responsible at the station to comment. In parts, Schlesinger and Sender have taken a position on this. The main committee of the Brandenburg state parliament responsible for media issues also had a need to speak, which Schlesinger, Wolf and Friederike von Kirchbach, as chairmen of the Broadcasting Council – against whom there are no allegations – asked to speak in the special session. With reference to the compliance check, however, they did not accept the invitation and thus aroused the displeasure of Brandenburg politicians from all parties. After the media politicians in the Berlin House of Representatives initially reacted extremely cautiously to the events, things are now also moving in the federal capital. Alexander King, media policy spokesman for the left, would like to put the RBB on the agenda for the next meeting in September. For him, it is not only about the legal, but also about the political and ultimately also about the moral dimension. The AfD, which put the topic on the committee agenda in Brandenburg, has now also done so in Berlin. But this party is not just about the person Patricia Schlesinger, but about the entire public service broadcaster in its current form.