Moderator Linda Zervakis comes from Hamburg – as does Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). At the digital trade fair Republica last June, both chatted on stage about HSV and the northern metropolis and also a little about the country's digital politics. The appearance later became a PR disaster, both for Scholz and for Zervakis.
Because a report by "taz" came out: Zervakis had not been booked by the organizers of the fair, but by the Federal Chancellery to interview Scholz on stage. And through Zervakis' questions, which the observing journalists found rather uncritical, the question arose as to whether the Chancellery had agreed the content of the conversation with the moderator in advance.
So far, only the fee that the moderator received for the assignment has been fixed: 1130.50 euros. According to a government spokesman, it was a “lump sum” – which, however, did not cover the travel expenses. This was taken over by Zervakis' broadcaster ProSieben.
It is now apparent that the presenter was on duty once again last year on behalf of the Chancellery: on November 28, 2022, she moderated the kick-off event for the discussion format “Germany. Immigration Country: Dialogue for Participation and Respect”, in which, in addition to Scholz, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) and the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration, Reem Alabali-Radovan, took part.
This is shown by the federal government's response to a parliamentary question from the AfD parliamentary group. The list of how often federal authorities have paid journalists for moderation and other appearances over the past five years also shows how much money Zervakis received for moderation: 10,913.81 euros - an unusually high sum.
At the request of WELT, Zervakis' management confirmed that Zervakis had received fees for the events mentioned in the federal government's response. Zervakis acted "as a moderator, not as a journalist". The 47-year-old regularly works as a presenter and regularly receives fees for this.
Clients are companies, private individuals or “institutions”. The amount of the fees would usually be negotiated individually and not published. "This is an industry standard process," according to Zervakis' management. She has always met her obligations to her respective contractual partners, formerly ARD, since 2021 Pro Sieben
The Federal Chancellery initially left an inquiry from WELT unanswered until Tuesday afternoon, but promised to provide an answer later.
The Chancellery had business relations with Zervakis even before she switched to Pro Sieben, when she worked for ARD as a spokeswoman for the “Tagesschau”. In 2018, 2019 and 2020 she moderated the presentation of the German Integration Prize. It is unclear how much she received for this.
The Federal Government's response to the small inquiry also shows how much money the federal authorities have paid in total to journalists' fees over the past five years: around 1.47 million euros. The money was paid for moderation, media training and lectures, among other things.
According to the list, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (around 303,000 euros), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (around 295,000 euros) and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (around 199,000 euros) spent most of the tax money on journalists.
The AfD parliamentary group had also asked for a breakdown of the orders for journalists from the public service broadcaster (ÖRR) compared to representatives from private media houses. The Federal Government's response shows that ÖRR journalists were given orders totaling around 875,000 euros, and representatives of private media companies with moderations worth almost 600,000 euros.
Above all, the house of Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has been particularly fond of ÖRR journalists in recent years: it awarded orders worth around 143,000 euros to ÖRR representatives and almost 56,000 euros to journalists from private media houses.
For the journalists commissioned, the moderations were lucrative business - and the federal ministries paid a lot for the jobs. An example: According to the response from the federal government, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs under Hubertus Heil (SPD) commissioned journalists to moderate in 26 cases from 2019 to 2022 and paid a total of a good 110,000 euros for this. Converted to each order, the ministry paid an average of just over 4,200 euros. The Federal Ministry of Health was remarkably thrifty: Karl Lauterbach's (SPD) house spent only 3,300 euros on jobs for journalists in the past five years.