The parking spaces of the management of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) at the headquarters of the broadcasting station on Berlin’s Masurenallee are deserted. And in the “RBB Special” on Saturday evening – a few hours after ARD boss Tom Buhrow withdrew his trust from the remaining RBB management – neither the acting director Hagen Brandstätter, program director Jan Schulte-Kellinghaus nor operations director Christoph Augenstein nor the managing director want to Administrative director Sylvie Deléglise or legal director Susann Lange comment on the communication from Cologne, which is unique in this form. Even on the morning after Buhrow’s vote of no confidence, the RBB press spokesman could only say: “There has been no statement so far, and we cannot announce one yet.”
On Sunday, other ARD directors followed suit: Kai Gniffke, head of SWR, said he did not have the impression that the RBB management was willing or able to adequately clarify the events in order to stabilize the station again. His colleague Florian Hager from Hessischer Rundfunk also called for a fresh start as a consequence of the affair surrounding the recalled director Patricia Schlesinger.
What has happened in the past few weeks and especially in the past few days is truly a unique event. First Patricia Schlesinger resigns as ARD chairwoman, a little later as RBB boss, before the Broadcasting Council recalls her. The head of the board of directors, Wolf-Dieter Wolf, who was also heavily burdened, also quit. On Saturday, Friederike von Kirchbach will resign from the position of Chairwoman of the Broadcasting Council. The three most important positions of the station are now occupied by replacements. But even that is not enough for the other directors of the ARD, after they have been silent about the events in the RBB for a long, possibly too long.
Dieter Pienkny, who chaired the broadcasting council after Friederike von Kirchbach’s resignation, sees the RBB as abandoned by the broadcaster family after the statement by the ARD chairman. “That’s not how I imagine solidarity,” he told the Tagesspiegel. At a time when all colleagues at RBB are clearing away the rubble and looking for solutions, such a statement is not constructive. “I expect the ARD chairman to take a clearer stance on this story.” He can understand that the ARD chairman is going too slowly. “It’s too slow for us too. But we are clearly trying to clarify, with lawyers and our own research team. I don’t know what kind of task force Tom Buhrow is still asking for.”
As far as the indirect demand for the resignation of the entire management is concerned, Pienkny refers to the board of directors led by Dorette König, which is meeting on Monday. There are first outlines for a solution. “I assume that nails will be made with heads. The ARD pretends that we are sitting on our hands. But we don’t do that.”
At the same time, Pienkny criticized the top broadcasters. “We know that the mood in the RBB is boiling, and we also know that some in the management obviously haven’t heard the shot yet.” You can’t divide the misconduct into those of Schlesinger and others and think that things like severance pay or company cars and business trips are commonplace. “I don’t see it that way.” There is no differentiation in public. There, the question is asked, how is money handled in the RBB and what were the control mechanisms like? “And they didn’t work, neither in compliance nor in auditing. The Wolf System has done more to obfuscate than control. We have to get a grip on that.”
Everyone is now pushing for a “quick and convincing new start at the top of the Berlin-Brandenburg radio station”, including Frank Überall, the national chairman of the German Association of Journalists. Above all, he refers to the concerns of the RBB employees, who would suffer particularly from the loss of credibility of the RBB. Like the ARD directors, the DJV also sees “not even the slightest attempt to create the required transparency for bonuses and other unexplained processes” in the management under Brandstätter. Everywhere: “After the departure of the artistic director, the Schlesinger system lives on. This has to end at last,” he demanded.
“The RBB management no longer enjoys trust – neither in the ARD nor in-house. Therefore, she must resign immediately,” the editorial board said in a statement. “We, as the representatives of the journalists in the RBB, no longer trust that this management can provide complete information.” In addition, one expects that the deputies or the main department heads will not automatically move up. “Because everyone who benefited from bonuses in the Schlesinger era also supported this system. We need other, flatter and really transparent structures.”
Jan Redmann, CDU parliamentary group leader in the Brandenburg state parliament, spoke out in the RBB special on Saturday in favor of the next director of the RBB no longer being elected by the incumbent broadcasting council, but by a newly composed body. This was contradicted by Antje Kapek, who sits on the RBB Broadcasting Council for the Berlin Greens. The Council has shown that it is now doing its job. You personally accept responsibility.
Redmann sees the current RBB leadership as temporary management, but he spoke out against an immediate resignation. She should remain in office until the audit report from the external law firm is available and the business can then be handed over to new hands.
After the meeting of the board of directors on Monday, with possibly groundbreaking decisions, the next week will be before the next extraordinary meeting of the Broadcasting Council, when the scheduled meeting of the program committee will be rededicated to another special meeting of the control body. Time is pressing, not for the search for a new director or a new station boss. The clock is also ticking when it comes to the control bodies. The term of office of the Board of Directors ends this year, that of the Broadcasting Council in spring 2023.