MIt is important for me not to appear before you as Chairman of the Board of Directors of ARD. I’m just talking about myself. Because I will do something quite unusual in media policy discussions: I will simply say what I think. Without taboos and without the usual considerations – and logically: not in the name of ARD. But on my own behalf and on my own responsibility. This also fits in with the Überseeclub; Because the Überseeclub stands for the Hanseatic motto for thinking beyond horizons. “My field is the world.”
All of us have taken note of the events surrounding the Berlin-Brandenburg broadcasting service that emerged this summer. The RBB controversy was initially about specific allegations against management and oversight. Controversial consulting contracts, local food bills, questions about omitted bids for diversion projects and much more. Then the vision widened. Legitimate questions have been asked at all times which are periodically asked critically. But they have only a limited relationship to the original scandals.
Debate raged everywhere. Here also in the north. But over the past few weeks and months, one thing has become clear: This is no longer a discussion of individual issues. It’s a basic discussion.
I suppose we mainly appreciate public service broadcasts. But now it is nothing less than the question: What do we want from nonprofit broadcasting in the twenty-first century? How much nonprofit broadcasting do we want? But also vice versa: what do we not want? Or not anymore?
This is the main question. But in the cacophony of angry statements, many talk about reform, but almost all of them actually mean partial reform. The countries responsible for media policy tell broadcasters: “You have to cut a lot more! And if possible, do not touch the program.” We broadcasters say to the policy: ‘We’ve gone behind the show for too long! If you want a smaller bill, ask for less’.
I should make it clear: The broadcast fee we all pay follows legal authorization. The last head of the KEF, the independent commission that determines our financial needs, repeatedly told politicians: “Everything that broadcasters do, you – politicians – have written into state treaties and state broadcasting laws.” They say, they will have to fulfill what the law requires. Imagine if NDR Director Jochen Knuth – who is also sitting here in the room – had simply turned off one of the radio waves here in the north.
Nobody dares to come out of cover
However, states say government treaties leave enough room for something to be omitted. Only: if you let something go, you get a whole wave of indignation that something like this ensues – the indignation of the audience that is supposed to do without the program they love; angry employees who make a living with it; And the outcry of pressure groups that defend this genre. I’ll get into that shortly. The only thing that matters to me here is to make it clear to you: everyone is afraid to be left alone with this danger. The result: no one dares to step out of cover. Everyone is chasing each other. Media politics and station chiefs are chasing each other. ARD and ZDF spy on each other, who gets more of the contribution cake, and who gets less? It’s a bit like Mikado: whoever moves first loses.