In the scandal surrounding Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, which began in the summer with revelations about the behavior of director Patricia Schlesinger, who has since been fired without notice, it is easy to lose track of things. It was and is about Schlesinger’s salary, her expenses, business meals, costs for the office conversion, contracts with real estate consultants, the planned “digital media house”, bonus payments for the entire top broadcaster and the network in which Schlesinger, her husband, the former “Spiegel” journalist Gerhard Spörl, and the former RBB chairman of the board of directors Wolf-Dieter Wolf are believed to have been stuck. The Berlin public prosecutor’s office is investigating on suspicion of fraud and the acceptance of benefits, the accused deny the allegations, the affair has plunged the entire ARD into a crisis.
A sophisticated enrichment system
That’s one side of the medal. The other is the enrichment system, in which not only Schlesinger was involved, but which seems to have shaped the management at RBB in general, even before Schlesinger’s time, which then really saddled up again. This is indicated by the financial all-round carefree protection of top employees who no longer work for the station, but still receive money. Recently it became known that the former RBB editor-in-chief Christoph Singelnstein, who was replaced prematurely in March 2021, is entitled to a pension and a consulting contract on top of that, so that he comes to 15,000 euros a month as a private individual without having to pay for the RBB having to lift a finger.
The magazine “Kontraste”, produced by the RBB, uncovered two other departures with a financial cushion. As a result, the former head of culture at the broadcaster, Stephan Abarbanell, retired early in 2021 and, according to an age-old regulation that dates back to the days of the broadcaster Freies Berlin (SFB) – the SFB was merged with Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg to form RBB in 2003 – seventy Percent of the last gross, which in his case amounts to 7800 euros. In order to benefit from this early retirement, however, the head of culture had to be downgraded from being highly paid to a collectively bargained employee. He agreed to this as part of a termination agreement, “Contrasts” quotes the former head of culture and politely does not call him by name. As far as early retirement is concerned, “Contrasts” names two other cases: the former managing director of a subsidiary of RBB, who left in 2018 at the age of 57 and is now endowed with around 100,000 euros a year, and the former auditor of the station, who received an early retirement benefit of is also on the road for 7800 euros a month. A total of 54 RBB employees have taken early retirement in the last five years, 29 of them were under the age of 62. In 2021, RBB employed a total of 2,058 permanent employees.
Half a million “pensions”
In addition to early retirement and consulting contracts, there is a third option in the public-law system for higher-ranking people to get money without having to work for it: the pension. These are amounts that you receive after the end of your contract and before you retire. According to “Contraste”, the former RBB program director Claudia Nothelle also receives such a pension. She was once traded as a director candidate. At the beginning of 2017, as soon as Patricia Schlesinger took over as artistic director, Nothelle (whose name also omits “contrasts”, although everyone knows who is meant) left. She allegedly left, as it was said at the time, of her own volition. Today she is a professor for television journalism at the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. Since her departure, according to “Contrasts”, “at the age of 53, the former director has received a pension”. Documents showed that she currently receives around 8,200 euros per month. In total, RBB has paid them around half a million euros so far. The journalism professor did not want to comment on the presentation of “Contrasts”. After her “leaving from RBB, secrecy was agreed, I’ll stick to that,” she is quoted as saying.
The pension, it is said, is not an invention of the RBB, but has a tradition and goes back to the old days of the SFB. And so the RBB currently pays a former SFB director 13,100 euros a month pension, the widow of another director receives around 9500 euros a month – pension.