Patricia Schlesinger has resigned as Director General of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) with immediate effect. She initially communicated this to Friederike von Kirchbach, the chairman of the committee, and the other members of the Broadcasting Council in a letter on Sunday. Schlesinger had already resigned from her position as ARD chairman on Thursday.
“This step is incredibly difficult for me. However, the personal accusations and defamation have reached a level that makes it personally impossible for me to continue in office,” explains Schlesinger in the letter that is available to the Tagesspiegel.
“Currently, the focus is no longer on the journalistic and publicistic performance of the station, but only on possible and alleged misconduct on the part of the artistic director. I very much regret that and I apologize to the employees of the RBB for this development. “For me, the withdrawal is a logical consequence of my promise to always and first stand up for the interests of the RBB.”
In a press release, the chairwoman of the Broadcasting Council from Kirchbach calls Schlesinger’s withdrawal the “right step”. On Monday, the council will meet for its second special session after the RBB affair about allegations of nepotism, compliance violations and wasted fees.
A few new questions were added to the RBB affair at the weekend: The Springer publication “Business Insider”, which got the affair rolling, followed up with a new report. With reference to leaked information, the portal writes that in addition to her salary, which increased by 16 percent to 303,000 euros in 2021, the director also received a five-digit bonus as a “variable salary component”.
This is not the only extra benefit that Patricia Schlesinger is said to have received: Since the RBB has granted her the private use of company cars – and the two chauffeurs – she has to pay tax on the monetary benefit. According to RBB, taxation is carried out via “components of remuneration”. This would mean that the broadcaster also bears these costs.
In addition, “Business Insider” wants to have found out that Schlesinger’s husband Gerhard Spörl also used the company car for his own business trips – including to the Berlin Exhibition Centre. Spörl had received a well-paid consultant contract for media coaching from trade fair boss Martin Ecknig through the mediation of RBB administrative board chief Wolf-Dieter Wolf.
Since the first special session – at which Schlesinger and Wolf had on the one hand rejected all allegations and promised comprehensive clarification – not only Schlesinger’s withdrawal from the ARD leadership has happened. There had also been other new allegations ahead of Business Insider’s report, such as the secret deal for the Audi A8 luxury company car and potentially significantly higher costs for the media house construction.
After Thursday, there were already several calls from politics, which also demanded the end of Patricia Schlesinger’s RBB directorship after the resignation of the ARD chairmanship. Party affiliation was not the only deciding factor.
Petra Budke from the Brandenburg Greens spoke out frankly for Schlesinger’s resignation as RBB director, “to avert further damage to the RBB”. For her Berlin party colleague Antje Kapek, on the other hand, “the moment had probably come when the RBB committees had to come to an assessment”.
Unlike Budke, Kapek sits on the Broadcasting Council and was not alone in her reserved attitude. “Schlesinger needs a clear message that the salami tactic must be over. She must provide the names of those attending the dinners. But I don’t see the time yet for resigning,” another council member told the Tagesspiegel.
The invitation to the Broadcasting Council meeting came from Friday, the report from “Business Insider” from Sunday, on Sunday evening “Bild” followed up. This time it was about furnishing Schlesinger’s office and the adjoining rooms on the 13th floor of the Berlin television center, where the artistic director resides.
Since Schlesinger took office in 2016, renovations worth over 650,000 euros are said to have been made there. Almost 17,000 euros are said to have been spent on the new floor in Schlesinger’s office alone. According to “Bild”, there should have been a call for tenders, but due to time constraints there was no such thing, contrary to the objections of internal audit.
However, the invitation to the Broadcasting Council meeting could not have been issued more quickly, three days are the lower limit according to the statutes. In order to have a quorum, at least half of the council members must be present – although it is sufficient to be connected.
In recent years, the Broadcasting Council has not been conspicuous by being harsh on the directors – despite the persistently poor TV ratings and dissatisfaction among the workforce that has reached unimagined heights.