Dhe Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder is leaving the board of directors of ZDF. At the request of the German Press Agency, the committee announced that he had already resigned from his post in December “with immediate effect”. Soeder goes. Why? Because “extensive obligations in Bavaria unfortunately do not allow further activity,” says a spokesman for the State Chancellery in Munich. Who follows Söder is still open. The prime ministers decide who takes his place, four of the twelve posts on the ZDF board of directors are occupied by the federal states, and the other eight members are elected by the other control body, the television council.
One can imagine that Söder has “extensive commitments” that prevent him from traveling to the Lerchenberg in Mainz. There are state elections in October, the Prime Minister is running again, and Söder has already campaigned with his CSU.
Söder missed four out of five meetings in 2022
So far, Söder hasn’t really had time for ZDF. According to the minutes of the Board of Directors, he only attended one of five meetings in 2022. That was on April 8th. Among other things, the decision was made to appoint program director Nadine Bilke, appoint Bettina Schausten to the editor-in-chief and hire deputy program director Frank Zervos.
If you look at the logs, you will see that not only the ZDF director with around 372,000 euros per year, but also second-tier bosses with incomes of around a quarter of a million are among the top earners in public broadcasting. The Board of Directors is responsible for approving non-tariff agreements. There are a few of them on ZDF.
Malu Dreyer has a shorter path
However, the prime ministers avoid making politics at this point. This applies to Söder and everyone else, most of all to the head of the administrative board and Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer (SPD), who was confirmed as chair of the committee on July 1 of last year (Söder was also absent from the meeting). It is as if politicians had two bodies like kings once did (mortal and immortal) or (according to Kantorowicz) a public and a private role. In a small administrative circle, they decide on measures that make public broadcasting so expensive. (When the pension plan for ZDF employees, the 2021 annual financial statements and the financial planning for 2022 and 2023 were on the agenda on September 9, 2022, Söder wasn’t there either.) If you then step out the door, the country heads and complain their media secretaries of state that ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio are unable to reform and limit their budgets.
Markus Söder is no longer in this dilemma, unlike his colleagues Malu Dreyer, Reiner Haseloff (CDU) and Dietmar Woidke (SPD). In particular, Woidke, the Prime Minister of Brandenburg, is emerging as a critic, which is not surprising, after all, the scandalous institution RBB is broadcasting on behalf of his state (and Berlin), where absurd excesses reigned under the former director Patricia Schlesinger, to which the public legal pension system with its high basic salaries and the many bonuses, however, also invites. At the highest level (e.g. at ZDF) in addition to retirement benefits, allowances, company cars, expense and separation allowances are given, to name just a few items.
Woidke wants an “upper limit”
In any case, Prime Minister Woidke has just told the “Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung” that we need an “upper limit” for directors’ salaries. Income, such as that received by the former RBB boss with around 340,000 euros per year, is “toxic”, says Woidke and rules out an increase in the broadcasting fee, but only for the next two years. “We saw how the RBB put the money of the contributors into things that were not necessary,” says Woidke. “In view of the misconduct at RBB that has become known,” he sees “no acceptance among the citizens of Brandenburg for an increase”.
Woidke should be right about that. But does he also remember it when he looks at the submissions to the board of directors of ZDF, the largest public broadcaster with an annual budget of 2.5 billion euros?