It’s all about the three big B’s: bonus payments, office equipment, relationships. The RBB director was relieved of her office, and the NDR also has to be regrouped. This can mean a turning point for public broadcasters – if they want to.
Public television is great. So actually. In Germany on June 9, 1950, with the founding of the working group of public broadcasters – better known by the abbreviation ARD – something really pioneered was created. So actually. Basically, with the idea of fee-financed broadcasting imported from Great Britain, the basis was laid for a term that would become extremely fashionable seven decades later: diversity. So actually. But it’s not just about great television. It’s about madhouse television. About company cars with massage seats, about the three big Bs: bonus payments, office equipment, relationships.
18 euros and 36 cents: That is the current fee that every household in Germany has to pay every month for public broadcasting. 220.32 euros a year for a television in which the law of the strongest does not apply, i.e. not only the ratings govern, but diversity is created, a diverse television in which minority programs also have their chance.
The annual equivalent of currently two tank fillings is money well invested – or rather: That would be money well spent. If only it would flow into the program. However, the service providers of ARD and ZDF have often lost sight of the core in recent decades: serving and performing.
At this point, there is no need to have an envious discussion. WDR director Tom Buhrow is the top earner among the ARD directors: 413,000 euros annual salary. SWR boss Kai Gniffke follows in second place with 361,000 euros, and BR boss Katja Wildemuth is still at 340,000 euros.
For comparison: Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as a top politician, will bring the 2022 diet increase with a basic salary of 19,091 euros and 14 cents plus service expense allowance and location allowance almost on par with a top television manager. But: If you keep an eye on the degree of responsibility, you can’t shake the suspicion that something is wrong.
With which we are on the good side if we want to see the good in the affair about the RBB director Patricia Schlesinger and the subsequent crunching in the beams: It cannot go on like this. Public service television must renew itself – today more than yesterday, and very quickly, because tomorrow it will be too late. The structures suffocate themselves. Far too little of our fees reach the program.
Even less reaches the people who design the program creatively. Far too much flows into contaminated sites. Let’s stay with Patricia Schlesinger. If she can enforce her pension, she will retire with 75 percent of her last month’s salary – 15,000 euros a month. This is not the exception. That’s the rule for longtime employees in public television. More than eight percent of the contribution revenue flows into company pension schemes. You can grow old without any worries – and that too in the program.
New beginnings instead of old age, diversity instead of rigidity, courage instead of a dull screen: these are the requirements of the future. A consensus that reliably finances a great broadcasting system can only be achieved if the license fee can be seen by viewers in television programs. We need money for the creators, not for the administrators. Fee money for good television: Independent. Carefully. Surprised. Innovative.
And that is where the core of the problem of the current discussion lies: there is a great danger that the top positions that have become vacant in the public-law system will be filled by administrators who have dutifully worked their way up the ranks according to the best official principle: if you don’t do anything, you won’t make any mistakes; if you don’t make mistakes, you make a career. For a real fresh start, the public service system must rely on new minds, on fresh thinking, on new solutions from outside. Consensus for the future can only be achieved with new minds.
Does that make everything different? That’s up to the designers. And that’s up to us. Because let’s not fool ourselves. If Erste organizes a theme evening in the future where the five greatest thinkers solve the world’s problems, it has a lot to do with the educational mission. And yet I’m afraid that if, on the same evening, a private broadcaster starts counter-programming with the “Promihaus der Dumpbacken”, then the ratings victory will go to private television. Hell isn’t just for the others, as Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote. We are hell ourselves.
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