ARCHIV - 15.08.2022, Berlin: Das beleuchtete Logo des Senders Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) ist an der Fassade am Sitz des Senders an der Masurenallee angebracht. (zu dpa «RBB-Rundfunkratschef: Keine Wahl von Interims-Chef am Mittwoch») Foto: Carsten Koall/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg could also fall victim to the digital media hype. Hardly a day goes by without new items being posted to the debt account of the dismissed artistic director Schlesinger. The presumption of innocence is also relative in this case, because the channel’s crisis has a face that appears so constantly and often that it is suitable for a profile. And as a classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the case of the ailing broadcaster, no matter how deep, can be used very well. Many have always known it and pull their standing sentences from the past few years of systemic criticism of public service broadcasting out of the drawer with the tenor: how inflexible the institutions of public service broadcasting – the insistent official system is already in place – on the new times are set; how much they move in their “bubble” in the protected space of the cultural mandate and are well fed by the citizen as the fee payer, looking after themselves so to speak and thereby becoming susceptible to miscalculations and personal mistakes.

There are sufficient legal remedies and investigative instruments to pursue them, but their “mills” work slowly and thus do not immediately serve the apparent expectations of the permanently agitated time. There is the current update of the broadcasting laws like now in Berlin and Brandenburg, the positioning of the “old” broadcasting in the digital network or the dispute about the amount of the broadcasting fees – last but not least the public opinion.

I don’t want to join the ranks of know-it-alls, I always hated it when elders gave advice for a time that they ultimately helped cause.

But from a distance, I dare to make two statements and make a few suggestions, because it seems essential for the benefit of all stakeholders in public broadcasting, to get out of the “total crisis” mode and the narrative “the system is almost done” – or, to put it bluntly: “we’re standing today on the brink, tomorrow we’ll be one step further” – to get out. A critical examination could serve to consider what should be done now. This does not exclude bitter assessments and daring theses, insofar as they can be used as a guide.

My first statement can be understood in two ways: RBB is alone at home. Whether and to what extent his entire management is up for negotiation, as is often cheaply demanded, can now be assessed individually and certainly not from a distance. However, some imbalances can be identified. RBB’s bonus system, which has now been suspended, does not belong in public broadcasting and therefore strikes me as absurd because it certainly also serves to reward executives for taking something away from others, for example as part of savings targets.

The RBB is largely left alone by its trustees and the solidarity community ARD. With regard to the work of the trustees on behalf of the broadcasters, the broadcasting board and the administrative board, the statement by the resigned chairperson of the broadcasting council is known, according to which she was overwhelmed due to her work as an honorary post in the naturally highly professional broadcasting business. I think that’s a cheap excuse that lacks respect for competent, constructive voluntary work and turns out to be a simple organizational failure. Of course, despite all the necessity of working on a division of labour, there must be a control such as the simple four-eyes principle, also to prevent a sole administrator from going blind in one eye. External expertise and experts are also to be “bought in” by supervisory bodies at reasonable cost.

The demonstrative distrust of the directors of the ARD towards the management of the RBB seems pathetic. He is unworthy of a community of solidarity, which the ARD still widely believes to be, legally as a result of the resounding ineffectiveness, but above all short-sighted: the attempt to erect a firewall, to keep the ARD “shop” in front of the RBB clean, is downright provocative looking for hot spots elsewhere in the system. The first results can be viewed.

So the RBB alone at home. This can lead to self-reflection in those who are not prepared to sink into the vale of tears of the institution’s crisis, or even to surrender to despair, which I consider nonsensical given the still prevailing positive attitude towards the importance of independent information. The line vacuum in the RBB, which is quite extensive when viewed from the outside, reveals the people who are now called to action – who heed the wisdom that was hackneyed even in the days of Corona: “But where there is danger, the saving power also grows.”

The program makers themselves should take the program booklet into their own hands, not only work on how transparency and co-determination can be secured in the RBB, but also form a task force “from the middle” of their work for program questions and perspectives: consider, for example, the danger that the third television program continues to stagnate in popular favor with the public, perhaps because the RBB had to be used as a media pilot project for a failed merger of the federal states, so it was brought together on television, which does not correspond at all to the different mentalities, the topics between Brandenburg and Berlin, i.e. do not belong together. Conclusions for the design could be drawn from such a “thesis”.

Or as another hot topic: The planning of a media company has been stopped, so one reads, because the calculation got out of hand. Before this planning, which is worth pursuing in principle, disappears in the Orkus of depreciation. Why shouldn’t the potential occupants of a digital architecture ask the existential key question of broadcasting for RBB programs before realistic planning: whether it will be enough to keep looking for new ways of playing in the future – now on the Internet; whether broadcasting won’t go under because broadcasts are no longer announced, but products are in demand, and where in this network a unique position for broadcasting can be achieved again in such a way that financing through fees is legitimized.

The trustee, the broadcasting committees, must accompany this departure and not look for a quick solution to a crisis. They have to find their own way from a broadcasting to a network policy and find out where the place is for an independent state broadcaster. You have to find a director for it. The criteria that have become known and the associated speculation about the person are not encouraging. Why an interim director to bridge the gap, to bring peace – that sounds like “Verweser”.

The allocation is just as obvious in an emergency, but still convenient: but now from the east, possibly from Brandenburg. It has to be the best, if the search for directors is not to appear as a new form of location politics. And anyone who used to have anything to do with the RBB, or who helped shape the time before that at ORB and SFB, runs the interim risk of meeting themselves and their decisions again, being too bound, not being open enough. This also applies to the qualification, should it come from the ARD. It does not meet the challenge of the adventurous job from the outset.

The radar screen for the search for a new director should be very broad for a personality who preferably comes from the creative industries. Film, opera/theatre, publishers, foundations, broad-based media companies in most cases maintain a lively relationship with broadcasting. The director must manage competently, carefully separate the RBB company from the mistakes of its past, be open to the future and believe in the freedom that independent journalism needs. He has to bring the stranger’s view of an apparatus with him. And the supervisory bodies, as the idea of ​​the interim director has already shown, must and can make the employment contract flexible as far as possible and necessary.

Are these thoughts too daring, even absurd? They mark a direction and consider that the media age does not tolerate long delays and half-hearted interim solutions, that broadcasting is looking for its future even without the RBB crisis.

A final personal note: For almost 30 years I have been involved in the project to win over the Russia of glasnost and perestroika in the field of science for independent broadcasting. Only then did I realize what I had long taken for granted: how valuable independent broadcasting is and how vulnerable, perhaps even endangered, in the age of Twitter and fake news. In Russia, our project is now shut down. The RBB crisis hit me personally.