Structural reform at the NDR

Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR) is merging its two previous program directors into one at the turn of the year. It is led by a dual leadership: Katja Marx, previously radio director, and Frank Beckmann, previously television director.

That is an extraordinary decision within ARD. There are four other state broadcasting corporations with only one program director in the public network. However, there are the four smallest: Radio Bremen (RB), Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR), Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) and Hessischer Rundfunk (HR). With all four stations, the entire range of programs, whether television, radio or the web, has a scope that makes it easier to put responsibility for it into just one hand.

The other major ARD broadcasters have opted for two separate program directorates

The situation is different with the other ARD broadcasters. The NDR, for example, is the third largest among them after WDR and SWR. Its budget of more than one billion euros a year is higher than that of HR, RBB, SR and RB combined. Because the big broadcasters produce significantly more programs, they have decided in their structural reforms in the past one or two years to keep two separate program directorates. With the exception of the NDR. He hopes that the merger of the two directorates will result in better networking and cooperation between all editorial staff. The dual leadership is needed because in such a large company the tasks cannot be handled by one person: The new program directorate is responsible for around 1,100 permanent and 700 freelance employees, the fee is around 350 million euros.

A reorganization has become necessary in the public broadcasters because the classic division into a television and radio directorate no longer makes sense due to digitization. Both cross-media work and the dismantling of double structures are only possible with difficulty in the traditional division. WDR, SWR, BR and MDR have therefore decided to sort the new program directorates thematically into an information and a culture directorate

Public broadcasting: Frank Beckmann was television director at NDR for twelve years.  From now on there is only one program director, which he runs together with Katja Marx.

Frank Beckmann was television director at NDR for twelve years. From now on there is only one program director, which he runs together with Katja Marx.

(Photo: Christian Spielmann / NDR)

“This separation does not make sense to us for NDR,” says Katja Marx, former radio director and since January 1st – in a shared office – responsible for the entire program together with Frank Beckmann. “We don’t want to build two silos that live from being separated from each other.” She speaks decidedly only for the NDR, does not want to evaluate the decisions of the other houses.

But it is obvious that the NDR has recognized, also based on initial experience within the ARD, which problems can arise with two content-wise separate program areas: almost inevitably there is a dispute between the directorates about power and influence, staffing levels and budgets are compared with one another . And every change for better or worse potentially provokes the question of whether this affects the other management to the same extent.

In addition, the division of content is by far not as clear-cut as it appears at first glance. This increases the need for coordination and the risk of friction losses. For example, the WDR has a directorate for information, fiction, entertainment and a directorate for NRW, knowledge, culture. In the regional NRW reporting, however, both information and entertainment play a central role. At MDR, on the other hand, series belong in one direction and young offers in the other. What about series for young audiences? And not only the SWR assigns radio plays and readings to the cultural department, but not the rest of the fiction.

The NDR has chosen a different route. For one with less bureaucratic and organizational obstacles. Trusting that Katja Marx and Frank Beckmann will work as a dual leadership.

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