WWhenever one thinks that there will be nothing more in the scandal history of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg – at least until the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office has found out about any criminal offenses – something will come up. The interim director Katrin Vernau had just presented her “Kassensturz” last Friday, which means that 41 million euros must be saved in the next two years in order to prevent a deficit of 174 million euros in 2028, when there was news from the financial front : The interim director, whose annual salary is 295,000 euros, receives a rent subsidy of 1,000 euros a month, and the former RBB editor-in-chief Christoph Singelnstein gets, thanks to a consulting contract and a pension payment, about as much as he earned during his active time: 15,000 euros a month.
Because the RBB is “in a crisis”
RBB explains that the director receives a rent subsidy by saying that the broadcaster is “in a crisis” and the new director had no time to give notice of her apartment in Cologne, look for a new one in Berlin and organize a move. “There were five working days between the election and taking office,” during which Katrin Vernau had to properly hand over her office as administrative director of WDR and the chair of the ARD finance commission.
Since Vernau’s contract “is designed for a maximum of one year” – so the Broadcasting Council had decided – it was also not reasonable to “give up the apartment in Cologne (quite apart from the resulting family situation) and then at the latest – but maybe earlier, if there is a new elected director earlier – from May/June 2022 to look for a new apartment in Cologne from Berlin, where the service has to start again from September 16th, 2023, because then the leave of absence ends “. The rent subsidy is not a salary component (such as a bonus payment), “but a earmarked, verifiable expense item that is solely due to the interim and, above all, extremely rapid assumption of office”.
This is relatively easy to explain and could also be interpreted as an indication that Katrin Vernau may not find the task of rearranging things at RBB so appealing that it must necessarily become a long-term official obligation.
The RBB is less willing to provide information on the question of the consulting contract for the former editor-in-chief Christoph Singelnstein. The contract with him as editor-in-chief was concluded for a term from 2018 to 2023. When he left the RBB, he was 65 years old, the employment relationship was “cancelled by mutual agreement”. The RBB wanted to secure “Mr. Singelnstein’s expertise”, “especially with a view to the Electronic Media School, the Rundfunk Orchester und Chore GmbH and the commitment in Brandenburg”. To this end, a consultancy contract was concluded with him. Details of the content of the contract are not given.
pension and consultancy contract
The details are given by the RBB research group (together with a colleague from NDR), which has been ensuring transparency in and about the station for some time. As a result, the consultancy contract is a typical public service and RBB specialty. For Singelnstein, the contract is in addition to his lifelong entitlement to an annual pension of more than 100,000 euros and his statutory pension. In total, Singelnstein currently receives around 15,000 euros per month from RBB.
The contract ran through the director Patricia Schlesinger, who has since been terminated without notice, and the former head of the human resources department. At the beginning of 2018, according to the RBB researchers, Singelnstein’s contract was prematurely extended until 2023 and the controversial pension scheme was added. This secured the editor-in-chief “a lifelong pension of 55 percent of his last salary”, and this was lastly at 180,000 euros a year.
In 2020, the RBB announced that Singelnstein would leave office early the following year. According to the research, when he leaves at the end of March 2021, Singelnstein’s entitlement to a pension “should have increased to 58 percent of his last salary – that would be 8,700 euros per month and more than 100,000 euros a year in addition to the statutory pension, which is not counted against it “. For the period from April 2021 to his actually planned departure in March 2023, Singelnstein also received a consulting contract – a monthly fee of 6,300 euros. This was recorded under “author/other activity”. The RBB researchers did not get any input from Singelnstein, and their own broadcaster gave them the same tenor that other journalists hear: For contractual reasons, they do not comment on the details of contracts.