The Hessischer Rundfunk has its headquarters in the northeast of Frankfurt, where the city is slowly breaking up into semi-detached houses. From the outside you can see transmitter masts, the bus of the HR summer tour, buildings with lamellar curtains. You can also see a round building that was planned as the plenary hall of the Bundestag in 1948, but then Bonn became the capital and the symphony orchestra has played in the rotunda ever since.
At the end of February, the previous director, Manfred Krupp, will retire, and so here at Bertramshof it’s not just about the station’s past, but above all about its future: who will be the new boss, who will be the new boss?
Together with Radio Bremen and Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR), Hessischer Rundfunk is one of the rather small broadcasters in the ARD: 1700 employees, plus 940 permanent freelancers, 90 trainees. They not only work in the Frankfurter Funkhaus, but in five other studios between Kassel and Darmstadt. They make HR into a broadcaster that – although it is rather small – still produces many formats in-house instead of submitting orders to companies, as is customary everywhere else. A station with its own production facilities, such as the crime scene with Ulrich Tukur as Felix Murot. And a station for which the question now arises with the new, the new: How will we go on?
The program man competes against the numbers woman. Actually, HR would need both
To become director at HR, you have to apply in writing to the Broadcasting Council, the control and supervisory body of the broadcaster. Alternatively, the Broadcasting Council itself can propose candidates. A ten-person selection committee then narrows the field of candidates – in this case to two names, who in turn are proposed to the Broadcasting Council for election: Florian Hager and Stephanie Weber.
Florian Hager is 45 years old and studied journalism and film studies in Paris and Mainz. Among other things, he was Deputy Program Director and Head of the TV and Web Programming Department at Arte in Strasbourg. In 2015 he became the founding managing director of funk, the youth service of ARD and ZDF, since 2020 he has been deputy program director and “channel manager”, which means that he is currently converting the ARD media library into something that should be able to keep up with the streaming services. He is considered a man who could drive the digitization of the station.
The second applicant Stephanie Weber is 49 years old – her birthday falls on the day of the election – and studied law in Saarbrücken. In the legal department of the Saarländischer Rundfunk, she was responsible for the legal areas of broadcasting constitutional law and programming law. In 2017 she became administrative and operations director of the SR and in this position was responsible for the areas of finance, technology and human resources, among other things. This year Weber switched to HR as Operations Director. She is considered a woman who takes care of the numbers and could lead the station into the future with more solid finances than currently.
Outsider Ina Knobloch criticizes the tabloidization and isolation of the station
The program man and the number woman: Both Florian Hager and Stephanie Weber have agreed not to talk about their plans in advance. If you ask around at the station, many employees say that both of them cover not entirely unimportant topics. When HR writes about the “younger target group” in the annual report, he means 30 to 49 year olds. In the radio sector, the young radio station YouFM not only reaches the fewest people, but also less and less. With a daily reach of 3.8 percent, it is the weakest radio program. And when it comes to finances, last year revenues of 507 million euros contrasted with expenditures of 597 million euros, a minus of 90 million. It almost looks as if HR actually needs the strengths of both candidates to renovate the station.
The employees also say that perhaps the biggest task in the coming years will not be digitization or budget planning – it will be keeping people together: on the radio and on television, those in front of the cameras and those in the editing rooms, the props and the regional reporters. “We are currently experiencing uncertainty in a system whose security we can always rely on,” says one employee. Some say that they certainly associate hope with the move.
In addition to the names Florian Hager and Stephanie Weber, a third was recently traded in Hesse: Ina Knobloch. She has a PhD in biology and filmmaking, has worked for HR for a long time and also wanted to run this Friday’s election. In an interview with the FAZ, she complained about the “tabloidization” of the station, the “in-house policy”, which, among other things, prevents HR from opening up to filmmakers in Hesse. But what she mainly complains about is that, as she explains, she was asked by a member of the search committee to apply and did so – but was never able to talk to this committee. When asked by SZ, Rolf Müller, the chairman of the Broadcasting Council, explained that from a total of ten applicants named by the committee, they had now “following a procedure accompanied by a personnel consultancy” with a few selected interviews. “About individual people who were involved in the process” could not be given.
If you ask around in HR, many have at least heard of Ina Knobloch. Some say that she definitely has a point with her criticism, that something has to change, not just at the station, “We notice that with our children, they no longer watch television and it doesn’t help them that we’re in the seventies The Tin Drum co-produced “, says one employee. Many also criticize the procedure for choosing the new director. For example, the fact that there are so many old men on the selection committee who now decide on the future of the station -” whether that is such a clever process is, you can be divided, “one hears from the station.
The Broadcasting Council has yet to determine how long the newcomer will be in office
On this Friday, the Broadcasting Council – consisting of 32 men and women from politics and society – will decide on the future director of the Hessischer Rundfunk. A simple majority is enough. The election is for five to nine years; how long exactly is determined in a separate agenda item on the same day. The fact that this important meeting of a public broadcaster is not public was also criticized again and again. The ZDF broadcasted his election as artistic director live in Mainz last July. From HR it only says: At meetings of the Broadcasting Council this is usually the case.
Meanwhile, Ina Knobloch has one last hope: Until the election begins, the broadcasting councils can still propose candidates.