A scandal here and a little scandal there: Since nepotism and expense chivalry at Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg forced the director to resign, new allegations have come to light at NDR and elsewhere. One thing is clear: the system is in need of reform. However, anyone who is upset about high executive salaries should compare private companies. Often more than ten times as much is earned there.

Perhaps the source of the fire has been extinguished – but there are always embers and the true cause of the fire has not been fought. This could be the description of what is currently happening in public broadcasting, i.e. in the state broadcasters that make up ARD, in ZDF and in Deutschlandradio.

The source of the fire: That was nepotism and chivalry on expenses by the ex-RBB boss Patricia Schlesinger, who has since been dismissed from all offices. The embers are lavish company car regulations, such as those for the technical director of Bayerischer Rundfunk, and allegations against the NDR with a “climate of fear” forcing employees to report pro-government.

Now save articles for later in “Pocket”.

While all of the individual cases are being clarified and investigated, the cause of the irritated mood that hits the public service media remains untreated: it is the system of politically controlled state media, which is receiving less and less attention from viewers and listeners, but still from forced to collect more and more money from everyone.

The revenue – 8.4 billion euros in 2021 – not only paid for high salaries, but also for absurd developments, such as the fact that public broadcasters sometimes send more staff to the Olympic Games than Germany has any athletes at all. Or that they set up a series of special-interest stations whose viewership is so manageable that they would all fit into a sports stadium.

The fire was fanned by the behavior of the director of the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) Schlesinger, who has since been replaced stingy with the money of the license fee payers.

Schlesinger was also ARD chairman, which made matters worse. The fact that administrative director Hagen Brandstätter ran the business after her resignation was not a liberating act either. For years he had belonged to the closest management team under Schlesinger and thus to the circle of those executives who contractually received high additional “performance-related remuneration”.

The Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (BR) was also caught up in the wildfire. Its technical director, Birgit Spanner-Ulmer, has two company cars and just as many drivers at his disposal, including for private excursions. The broadcaster hastened to clarify that the director, who had been publicly pilloried, had “extensive official obligations throughout the broadcasting area”, and the requirements of the Working Hours Act had to be complied with, which made it necessary to change drivers from time to time.

The drivers could also be used by her for private trips. However, this is only an exception that comes from a ten-year-old service contract. So far, no one at BR has thought that the exception may no longer be up-to-date.

An additional fire of its own then emanated from the North German Broadcasting Corporation (NDR). This wasn’t about waste, but about the other issue that bothers public broadcasters: their lack of independence. Representatives of churches, associations and, above all, political parties sit on their supervisory boards, and they can of course influence the reporting. The NDR now sees itself exposed to precisely this accusation.

According to information from the media portal “Business Insider”, nine NDR employees from the broadcasting center in Kiel have personally contacted the NDR editorial committee in the past two years. The panel of more than 20 elected freelance and permanent journalists serves as a point of contact for internal complaints. Her accusation: “Reporting is partially prevented and critical information is downplayed.”

The complaining editors stated that there was a “political filter” at the NDR in Kiel, that executives acted like “press spokespersons of the ministries” who denied the relevance of critical topics at an early stage. As a result, a “climate of fear” prevails in individual editorial offices.

The NDR explains that the “general assessment “Climate of Fear” from the point of view of those responsible in Kiel was not confirmed after personal discussions with numerous employees. However, the process is not over. “The editor-in-chief conducts one-on-one interviews with all employees.”

In the face of this conflagration, even those politicians who are part of the system are now on the alert. Nathanael Liminski, for example, still fairly new media minister of the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia. Despite all the criticism, he stated to Westdeutscher Rundfunk, which reported with relief: A fundamental reorganization was not up for debate.

The Bavarian state parliament president and chairwoman of the BR control committee Ilse Aigner (CSU) also reacted softly: “I am very depressed that these events at RBB are giving the ARD broadcasters a bad impression overall,” she says. So far, she has not drawn any consequences .

The directors of public television, of which there is one per broadcaster, which is particularly questionable at Radio Bremen, for example, which is surrounded by the NDR, all earn significantly more than 300,000 euros a year. Patricia Schlesinger should have been around 370,000 euros including bonus and company car. Anyone who is upset about this should, on the one hand, look abroad. In a European comparison, German TV managers are in the low-wage group.

Gilles Marchand, for example, Director General of the Swiss SRG, comes to 534,000 francs. Nathalie Wappler, the director of Swiss-German radio and television, to 450,000 francs. Tim Davie, Head of BBC, receives the equivalent of 620,000 euros, 650,000 for Stefano Coletta, the director of the Italian Rai 1. And even in Austria, Roland Weissmann from ORF manages to jump over the 400,000 euro mark.

On the other hand, the private broadcasters also pay handsomely. There, however, the money does not come from the compulsory fees, but from the shareholders, who are there voluntarily and usually want to earn money from their commitment. Thomas Rabe, chairman of the largest German private broadcaster RTL, comes to around twelve million euros a year. And Rainer Beaujean, top manager at ProSiebenSat.1, earned a slim 3.8 million euros last year. On the other hand, the leaders in public service are comparatively poor.

The article “Flag in public broadcasting is affecting more and more stations” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.