Public broadcasters: WDR still has a need for crisis experts

If you believe the chiefs of the public broadcaster at the end of 2021, the future will bring one thing above all else: save, save, save. Everything has to be put to the test, because if the new ARD media library is to run properly, it will also need more money.

But if it’s not about saving money on the program, then – at least at the WDR in Cologne – the handstand is added to the test bench. Like the trade journal Media correspondence now reported, the publicly funded broadcaster has decided to end the contract with his two external consultants Andreas Fünfgeld and Wolfram Winter to be extended until next autumn. The two were engaged by WDR, led by Tom Buhrow, for the past two years – that is, for the time when the broadcaster was chairman of the ARD and also faced very sensitive issues such as the fee increase. Five money had advised Buhrow on PR matters even before his time as director. Together with Winter, he was supposed to work in addition to the staff of the press spokespersons and marketing experts who were already permanently employed at WDR. According to the tender, a total of 580,000 euros was made available for this. The ARD chairmanship of the WDR ends next week. The station continues to afford the Cologne men’s cover.

Why? And what for? And what does it cost to continue to work? The information from the sender on Thursday initially brings about the informational value of a machine-made letter. Upon request, the WDR initially communicated exactly three sentences: The consultancy contract with Winter and Fünfgeld runs until autumn 2022, “without exhausting the budget budgeted at the time. The Europe-wide tender included the option for a third year from the start. Please understand that we generally do not provide any information on further contract details “. No doubt about it, two years of communication consulting have passed by here without a trace.

In fact, there was an extension option in the tender for a further, third year with the experienced networker Winter and the Buhrow confidante Fünfgeld. The services billed in the previous two years, so the WDR statement can be understood, remained so far below the estimated 580,000 euros that there is now nine months more for the money.

However, the publicly financed WDR (expected revenue from the broadcasting fee for the coming year: 1.2 billion euros) could of course have ended the contract and saved the amount that was not spent. WDR does not say how much of the money is left or what exactly the consultants should do by autumn.

Even before the “Umweltsau” song, Buhrow had looked for crisis experts

When Buhrow took over the chairmanship of the ARD two years ago, he apparently expected major problems that could arise. As early as July 2019 – months before Buhrow had to deal with a dog-dangerous children’s choir that sang “My grandma is an old environmental pig” – he had looked ahead to recruitment for crisis communication. The biggest “crisis” that Fünfgeld and Winter were supposed to take on was the emerging recommendation from the Commission to determine the financial needs of the KEF broadcasters for an increase in the license fee. “Critical reporting in other media can be expected”, and at the political level there will be “intensive debates about the mission and equipment of public service broadcasting,” said the call for proposals. In the course of these debates, Fünfgeld and Winter should develop specific strategies for the ARD chairmanship. It’s over now. So why does Buhrow need two external crisis advisors in addition to his own communications department?

The small RBB in Berlin, to which the ARD chairmanship passes at the turn of the year, by the way, gets by without five money and winter. There you have your own press team topped up with the former media journalist Ulrike Simonwho should take care of strategic communication and say on request: “We do everything on our own.”

Later in the afternoon, the WDR then sends another statement with reasons for the contract extension: The media inquiries about the content and structural restructuring of the public broadcasters have increased sharply, it says there; the internal communications department for the ARD chairman will be dissolved, and at least the WDR director will remain deputy ARD chairman. Buhrow is also the second most important in the ARD, his two most important advisors. Vive la crise!

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