The discussion about the future of ARD and ZDF has gained momentum that was unthinkable in the recent past. The most expensive public broadcasting system in the world appeared as if cast in concrete.
In the federal states, only the CDU in Saxony-Anhalt opposed the most recent increase in the compulsory contribution to EUR 18.36 per month. Critics had to be taught that cuts in ARD and ZDF would endanger democracy in Germany.
But the scandal surrounding the high-handed leadership of RBB Sun Queen Patricia Schlesinger turned the debate almost overnight. Nepotism at the MDR, political guidelines at the NDR and high additional income for the BR technical director also came to light. All of this has seriously damaged the reputation of public service broadcasting.
The simultaneous transmission of the Queen's funeral by ARD and ZDF, which had sent 50 employees in addition to their offices in London, became a symbol of the ÖRR's expensive dual structures.
There are also allegations that have been around for a long time, such as the lack of balance in political reporting and a tendency towards educational television, which comes as no surprise given the fact that 92 percent of ARD volunteers vote for the Greens, Left Party and SPD , according to an internal survey.
The recent speech by WDR director and ARD boss Tom Buhrow at the Übersee-Club in Hamburg shows how dramatic the situation is. He said: "My firm impression is that Germany doesn't seem to want us to the same extent in ten years - nor to want to finance it like it does today."
That is why “a new social contract” is needed. Everything has to be put to the test: the system of state chancellery and broadcasters, the role of orchestras, big bands and choirs. He also promoted a nationwide radio. He even considers a merger of ARD and ZDF to be conceivable.
One can only wish Buhrow and other reformers every success. His successor as ARD boss, SWR director Kai Gniffke, who will take over in 2023, has already positioned himself clearly: It is right to "rethink things that we have long considered untouchable".