In view of numerous allegations, the director of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), Patricia Schlesinger, is resigning from her position as chairwoman of the ARD with immediate effect. This was reported by the ARD "Tagesschau" on Thursday, the public service RBB confirmed this on dpa request. WDR director Tom Buhrow will take over the current business at short notice until the turn of the year. Schlesinger's future as RBB director remained open in the evening.
Schlesinger said: "We will ensure a smooth transition with all the departments involved in the ARD. The public discussion about decisions and processes in the RBB that fall within my area of responsibility now also affects the interests of the ARD." The 61-year-old added: "The management of the RBB and I now see our main task in helping to clarify these allegations and focusing our attention on the RBB." That's why you give up the presidency now.
According to the announcement, the directors of the ARD welcomed the decision of the RBB. At the upcoming ARD general meeting in Bremen in September, a new chair could then be appointed, who would be in office from 2023. Südwestrundfunk (SWR) has declared its willingness to take on this task.
The director had come under increasing criticism for weeks, and more and more allegations came up. An external investigation is currently underway at a law firm. Results are not yet available, they are expected in several weeks.
The online medium "Business Insider" got the case rolling at the end of June and has reported new details since then. In essence, it is about the question of whether the station boss and the station chief controller Wolf-Dieter Wolf could have treated each other too laxly in the event of a possible collision of interests. Both rejected allegations.
Consulting contracts for an RBB construction project that has now been put on hold and orders for Schlesinger's husband at the state-owned Messe Berlin play a role. In addition to his RBB function, Wolf is also the chairman of the supervisory board of the trade fair.
There is also criticism of a significant increase in Schlesinger's salary to a good 300,000 euros and the procurement and use of her company car, for which the car manufacturer is said to have granted a very high discount. Displeasure is also caused by the fact that Schlesinger, as RBB boss, received guests in her private apartment several times and billed the costs for food and drinks via the ARD broadcaster, which is financed by contributions; the billed costs are said to have been incorrect.
Schlesinger had been the chairwoman of the public ARD community since the beginning of the year and represented it as the most important representative to the outside world. RBB chaired the ARD for the first time in its history. As a rule, the presidency initially lasts one year and in the second half of the year the directors agree that the term of office should be extended by a further year to a total of two years. Schlesinger's re-election was still pending. The RBB director had taken over the chair from WDR director Buhrow. According to the rule, he was her deputy during Schlesinger's tenure.
The 61-year-old has been director of RBB since 2016, which is one of the smaller institutions in the ARD broadcasting network. Her second term began last year and lasts five years until 2026. Nothing was announced on Thursday about her position as RBB director. Schlesinger had recently made it clear in interviews that she would continue in office while the allegations were being investigated. At the same time, she had shown herself open to speaking to the RBB board of directors again about the controversial increase in her salary.
Wolf's function as chairman of the board of directors at RBB is suspended during the investigation until clarification. According to the state of Berlin, he probably wants to stop at Messe Berlin in the fall for reasons of age.