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. The ARD "Tagesschau" had first reported on Thursday evening.
"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," Schlesinger was quoted as saying in a press release from the RBB. "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 the chair is now handing over.
The West German Broadcasting Corporation (WDR) will initially take over the day-to-day official business of the ARD. The chair goes to WDR director Tom Buhrow.
ARD boss and RBB director Patricia Schlesinger is again under massive pressure. Now it's about her company car from Audi: The price is said to have been discounted by 70 percent for her. "There was a secret deal," Business Insider's Kayhan Özgenc said.
At the next ARD general meeting in Bremen in September, a new chair can be appointed who would be in office from January 1, 2023. The Südwestrundfunk had declared its willingness to take on this task, it said. Schlesinger's future as RBB director remained open in the evening.
For weeks, Schlesinger and RBB board chairman Wolf-Dieter Wolf have been accused of not making a clear enough distinction between private and commercial interests and their positions at the public broadcaster. An external investigation is currently underway at a law firm. Results are not yet available, they are expected in several weeks.
Schlesinger is accused, among other things, of not correctly billing for dinner in her apartment, for which the fee-financed RBB paid, and also of using her company car for private trips. There is also criticism of a significant increase in her salary to a good 300,000 euros.
Advisors associated with Wolf are said to have received lucrative engagements in a real estate project worth millions. The project has since been put on hold.
Schlesinger's husband, on the other hand, billed six-figure fees for services at the Berlin trade fair, which Wolf promoted as head of the supervisory board of the trade fair. Wolf denies such connections, and the director also defended herself massively against any suspicion.
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.