Patricia Schlesinger is said to be commenting on the allegations. Was there, among other things, an abuse of broadcasting fees with regard to the private use of a company car?
Since last month, allegations have been made against the RBB director and ARD chairwoman Patricia Schlesinger because of a suspicion of taking advantage in the room. “Business Insider” uncovered several facts based on the available information. Since then, the allegations of questionable expenses, the awarding of dubious consultancy contracts, an expensive new building and the question of abuse of broadcasting fees through private use of their Nobel Audi A8 company car with massage seats and two chauffeurs have increased.
The allegations specifically covered, among other things, a possibly incorrect billing of business dinners at Schlesinger’s in the private apartment. Business Insider used the bills from a local delicatessen and catering service to reveal that money also flowed from the broadcasting fee cash register. But that’s not all. Documents obtained by Business Insider revealed that “at the request of broadcaster RBB, the catering service changed invoices in several cases before they were received by the directorate. Compared to the original offers, the service provider reduced the number of people served on the later invoices. The total sums paid by the RBB, on the other hand, remained unchanged”.
Furthermore, the employment of consultants for an RBB real estate project is under scrutiny. These should come from the environment of the head of the board of directors Wolf-Dieter Wolf. Wolf-Dieter Wolf actually acts as the chairman of the board of directors. As such, he is tasked with supervising Schlesinger’s management.
At the same time, however, he chairs the supervisory board of the state-owned Messe Berlin. Schlesinger’s husband would therefore have landed a lucrative contract. Thus, Wolf, who is actually responsible for Schlesinger’s management control, would have given Schlesinger’s husband, Gerhard Spörl, orders since the end 2020. For consulting services and journalistic activities, according to the media, he should total around 140.000 euros in trade fair funds have collected so far. A clear case of conflicts of interest? In any case, Wolf-Dieter Wolf is currently on hold during the investigation. Dorette König has now taken over the official business.
There is suspicion of taking advantage
“It’s also about mixing private and professional life. In essence, the reporting raised the question of whether certain limits could have been exceeded in the professional relationship between Schlesinger and the RBB board of directors and whether collisions of interests were dealt with too laxly.”
In an interview with RTL, the national chairman of the German Association of Journalists (DJV), Frank Überall, stated:
“As a public official, you must not even give the impression that you are corrupt or even accept advantages. And there she needs at least some explanation.”
In addition, the rapidly increasing expenses for the new planned Digital media house, whose completion is planned by 2020, questions. In March 2020 it was said that the costs would be in the middle to upper double-digit million range. In the meantime, there is already talk of a currently estimated amount in the lower three-digit million range.
According to Schlesinger’s statement on this, the figures released by the press came from a simulation. A real, final calculation will not be available until next year at the earliest. Only then would the rbb management decide on the construction. However, the construction project is currently on hold due to the allegations.
Another point that Business Insider addressed relates to Schlesinger’s recent salary increase:
“It was recently announced that the Board was increasing her base salary by 17 Percent on 140 .000 has increased euros. No other director in the republic was able to record such a strong increase in wages. How high Schlesinger’s bonus is, on the other hand, is only known by a very few and is decided by just one person: Wolf-Dieter Wolf.”
Used radio fee for expensive company car?
Regarding the Audi A8 company car, which includes massage seats 145.000 would have cost euros, the suspicion of taking advantage in the room. She is said to have used the car privately together with the chauffeurs, according to another of the numerous other allegations. The car manufacturer would also have granted a very high discount of 61 percent for the company car.
Compliance procedures initiated
For truth-finding and case-related research also switched on the ZDF. This is how the investigative magazine “Frontal 17” would like to report about it. In this regard, the ZDF editorial team sent the ARD state institutions a catalog of questions about the allegations, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. A whistleblower system set up by RBB should also shed light on the allegations. Anonymous reports would be possible. In addition, an external law firm should contribute to the clarification. However, results are only expected in a few weeks.
Brandenburg’s state parliament is now also dealing with the allegations against RBB director Patricia Schlesinger. However, no one from the RBB appeared at a special meeting of the main committee in Potsdam. Across factions, the parties expressed their displeasure. The committee decided to ask those involved to appear in person at another meeting. Until then, the politicians are tasked with compiling a catalog of questions. The state of Brandenburg is responsible for the legal supervision of the RBB.
Allegations finally led to the resignation
In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, Schlesinger stated regarding the catering affair: “I acted to the best of my knowledge and belief”. At the time, she rejected calls for resignation. The 50-year-old affirmed “I’ve been working for decades in the public service system, of which I am a deeply committed believer. I will continue to be at the disposal of this system with all my strength.” However, there is room for negotiation about the contract and salary. Furthermore, she said that the allegations “meanwhile campaign character” had taken on. There are “forces at work that want to harm us”.
Finally, Schlesinger bowed to public pressure today. According to Tagesschau information, the director of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), Patricia Schlesinger, is resigning from her position as ARD chairwoman with immediate effect. As director of the RBB, however, she wants to remain in office. She stated:
“The public discussion about decisions and processes in rbb that fall within my area of responsibility is now also affecting me that of the ARD. The management of rbb and I now see our main task in helping to clarify these allegations.”
Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) with director Tom Buhrow takes over the ARD chairmanship for a short period of time until the end of the year. As of next year, Südwestrundfunk has signaled its willingness to tackle this task afterwards.
France voted to abolish the license fee
While French MPs voted in July this year to abolish the license fee, the main source of funding for public service broadcasting, we in Germany have been paying since August 2021 a radio contribution from already 18,17 euros per month. With the amount, RBB receives around 140 million euros annually.
The increase from originally 17,50 Euro is an interim solution, according to a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court, until a new media state treaty comes into force. In addition, the state collects the flat rate per household and regardless of whether there are devices ready to receive.