It bangs at RBB: Who spoons out the soup

It bangs at RBB: Who spoons out the soup

The RBB can’t get out of the scandals. A massive austerity program follows. What does the staff think about this?

protest poster

January 27, Berlin: Warning strike by the Berlin-Brandenburg radio station Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa

The bang came last week: On Wednesday, RBB director Katrin Vernau announced that the scandal-ridden broadcaster should save 49 million euros. 100 jobs will be cut by 2025, several programs will fall victim to the cuts, the program will focus on the period from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the “Mittagsmagazin” will no longer be produced by RBB in Berlin, but will be continued by ARD and ZDF. Two of the four directorates will also be eliminated. The savings round had become necessary due to the mismanagement of the past few years under the dismissed director Patricia Schlesinger.

Anyone who asks around the workforce at the RBB is met with uncertainty and anger. The taz spoke to representatives of the staff council and the freelancers as well as to ten employees, both permanent and freelance, in the Berlin, Frankfurt (Oder) and Cottbus locations. Most prefer not to read their names in the newspaper. Freelance and younger colleagues in particular fear for their jobs.

If you promise anonymity, then they hand it out properly: “All this pisses me off,” says a suitor. Another finds that “the mood is fucked up.” It is said again and again: “We have to spoon out the soup that others have gotten us into.” our backs.”

Sabine Jauer sees it that way too. The chairwoman of the staff council is calmer than the other interlocutors: inside, but she also thinks: “We have to pay for what has been done wrong in recent years.” And now the dismissed members of the management board are also defending themselves legally against their dismissal and Patricia Schlesinger wants to sue for her pension of 18,000 euros a month.

Liquidate all assets

“The worst are these pensions‘ says Jauer. But she also sees good things in the process that has now been initiated: “It’s better to make a hard cut than piecemeal new bad news.” Jauer also has concrete suggestions as to where savings could be made: “Vernau wants to halve the number of people paid outside the collective bargaining agreement. We think they can be abolished altogether.” Lutz Oehmichen, who also sits on the staff council, points to the real estate transactions. They should be reduced, but: “Before anyone here is fired or fees are reduced, we have to liquidate all other assets.”

What is striking in the conversations is the pronounced professional honor. Everyone wants to make a good program. “We editors enjoy our work. As long as we were able to do our shows, the rest didn’t interest me,” says Sabine Jauer. “What happened on the plains above us had nothing to do with it.”

That was probably the problem. Over the years, many management levels have formed at RBB that were separate from actual production. Technicians report they have up to five levels above them, they don’t even know what they’re all doing. It is this administrative waterhead that eats up so much money. And that has not yet been properly addressed, some complain.

Katrin Vernau has given notice to the previous management, a step that has met with great approval from the workforce. But the second row that the Schlesinger system made possible is still there. “A number of executives were willing to fulfill Schlesinger’s plan,” says Lutz Oehmichen. “The same players are back in the boat and rowing in the opposite direction.”

Many report exhaustion, which is triggered by the constant scandal reports and meetings to come to terms with the past. “I was horrified,” says one freelancer. “And it got worse with every revelation.” Sabine Jauer also says that she has been “in a loop” since last summer. You finally have to get out of crisis mode, you can’t work like this in the long run.

“We no longer have the power or the money to make exciting stories,” says a freelancer in Cottbus. And now the austerity programs are also endangering basic services. Some also show a certain cynicism. When asked that Schlesinger now wants to sue for her pension payment, an editor simply says: “I didn’t expect more from her.”

In calmer waters?

On the other hand, most interlocutors appreciate Vernau. She is credited with great administrative competence. She is a numbers person, which is the right thing to do in this situation. With vernau, so the hope, one can get into calmer waters. Lutz Oehmichen thinks that Katrin Vernau is perhaps not the most skilful when it comes to communication, but: “She doesn’t seem to have any bad intentions. To Schlesinger it’s like night and day.”

Others complain that Vernau is not leaving the program. A freelancer says: “I don’t have a vision of where she wants to go in terms of journalism.”

Christoph Reinhardt from the Free Representation is more critical. It would improve spirits if Vernau could confirm that there will be no forced terminations of freelance work, which she has not done so far. “There was a sentence like: “The free are free.” The question of the free is central. According to Reinhardt, only every third journalist is employed at RBB.

Most of the cuts are expected in the programming budget – from which the freelancers’ fees are paid. “We feel like a sliding crowd,” says a freelance editor. In any case, it is striking how many people are not permanently employed at RBB. Freelancers sometimes work full-time for RBB for decades. But permanent positions are rare. Lutz Oehmichen warns: “A shadow job market has established itself there.”

Now the austerity measures could hit the free ones in particular. “Without us, there would be no program,” says the freelance radio editor, outraged. Sabine Jauer warns that the workforce should not be divided into permanent and freelancers. Everyone has to pull together.

The youngsters perceive another division. Younger target groups in particular are to be reached more, RBB said when the austerity measures were announced. On the other hand, if you talk to younger colleagues, it becomes clear that little attention is paid to those who are supposed to produce this program. The fact that the “Mittagsmagazin” of all things is no longer to be produced in Berlin is met with incomprehension.

Open letter from the “Mittagsmagazin”

In an open letter, 23 employees of the “Mittagsmagazin” protest against the planned deletion of the format, on the grounds that the editorial team is one of the youngest and most diverse in the house. “If the RBB “can no longer afford the Mima,” the letter says, “then it will say goodbye to many journalistic and creative minds who have the qualifications that the broadcaster urgently needs right now.”

Other young employees also feel strongly disadvantaged. “The boomers get more pensions than we will ever get pensions,” says a young editor indignantly. “It’s hopeless for young people,” says a freelancer who no longer wants to work for RBB. Half of the traineeships that are offered together with the ems media school are now to be eliminated. Where is the offspring supposed to come from then?

“The fact that they save on the Volos is just ridiculous,” says one interviewee. That sends the wrong signal. “As a young person, you don’t feel taken seriously. You fight for a small digital format and the others eat out for thousands of euros at the company’s expense,” says another.

But the interlocutors are not yet completely despondent. Lutz Oehmichen says: “I hope that the time of the fake gold diggers and nonsense is over.” And Sabine Jauer even says: “We’re not in good spirits, but we’re not without confidence either.”

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