Rundfunk-Staatsvertrag

“Broadcaster’s treaty,” also short for the name of a law, the Staatsvertrag für Rundfunk und Telemedien or German Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia.

The broadcasting treaty regulating one of Germany’s two big public broadcasters, ZDF, is being reviewed by the supreme Constitutional Court [Verfassungsgericht] in Karlsruhe after a political fight in 2009 about firing ZDF’s editor-in-chief. Germany’s other big public broadcaster, ARD, reported that the case’s core question is whether governments and political parties have too much influence in ZDF’s current setup. The states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg brought the lawsuit to the supreme Constitutional Court in the form of a complaint about who’s on two boards that control ZDF.

“I believe that we have, step by step, walked ourselves into too much dominance by the government-influenced members of the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] and Television Council [Fernsehrat].” –Kurt Beck (S.P.D.) former Rhineland-Palatinate governor and chair of the ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] who, after trying and failing to make legislative changes, co-brought the suit.

Former Hessian governor Roland Koch (C.D.U.) led the 2009 fight in the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] to not renew ZDF editor-in-chief Nikolaus Brender’s contract.

The ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] has 14 members, of whom five represent German states and one represents the federal government. The remaining eight Administrative Council members are selected by the 77-member ZDF Television Council [Fernsehrat]. That board is supposed to “set guidelines for ZDF shows and advise directors about programming questions” and to consist of 77 people from societally important groups, namely

1 person from each of the German states signing the Staatsvertrag, 3 people sent by the federal government, 12 people sent by the political parties proportionate to their proportions in the Bundestag, 2 sent by the Protestant church, 2 sent by the Catholic church, 1 from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, 1 from the German association of unions [Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund], 1 from the association of service job unions ver.di [Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft e.V.], 1 from the bureaucrats’ union [Deutscher Beamtenbund], 2 from the federal association of employers’ unions [Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Arbeitgeberverbände], 1 from the national chambers of commerce association [Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag], 1 from the German agriculture central committee [Zentralausschuss der Deutschen Landwirtschaft], 1 from the central association of German craftsmen [Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks], 2 from the association of German newspaper publishers [Bundesverbandes Deutscher Zeitungsverleger], 1 from the German journalists’ association [Deutschen Journalistenverbandes e.V.], 1 from the media section of the service jobs union ver.di, 4 from the Free Welfare Associations [Freie Wohlfahrtsverbände] (and that should be 1 from the German Protestant church’s Diakonie Werk, 1 from the German Catholic church’s Deutscher Caritasverband e.V. umbrella association of charities, 1 from the German Red Cross, 1 from the central committee of the German workers’ welfare group Deutsche Arbeiterwohlfahrt e.V.), 1 from the German cities’ council [Deutscher Städtetag], 1 from the German association of cities and communities [Deutscher Städte- und Gemeindebund], 1 from the German counties’ council [Deutscher Landkreistag], 1 from the German sports association [Deutscher Sportbund], 1 from Europaunion Deutschland e.V., 1 from the German association for the environment and protecting nature [Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V.], 1 from the German nature protection association [Naturschutzbund Deutschland], 1 from the association of displaced persons [Bund der Vertriebenen], 1 from the coalition of victims of Stalinism [Vereinigung der Opfer des Stalinismus] and 16 from education, science, the arts, culture, the film economy, the free professions, family work, child protection, youth employment, consumer protection and animal protection.

Yet ARD tagesschau.de legal correspondent Frank Bräutigam’s chart broke these 77 members down into only three main groups: 45.4% board members from governments/political parties, 27.3% from unions, 20.8% from professional groups. The current judicial review will be casting a sharp eye on the complaint that the 27.3% unions and 20.8% professional groups are also nominated by the political parties. In fact, said ZDF heute journal, a considerable portion of them are selected by state governors, adding that informally the television council actually breaks down into two large groups: the C.D.U.’s allies and the S.P.D.’s allies. Usually, said people defending the current system, the duopoly controlling the ZDF television council is balanced enough to prevent the appearance of violation of the German Constitution, which guarantees freedom of reporting in broadcasting and film (Grundgesetz, Art. 5).

ZDF heute journal said the supreme court cannot change the Staatsvertrag but can define criteria limiting it.

ARD tagesschau.de calmly concluded their report by noting that the German supreme court in Karlsruhe has been issuing decisions that help define Germany’s media landscape for decades now. A verdict is expected in 2014.

Update on 25 Mar 2014: The court issued its verdict, invalidating the ZDF charter because it allows too much political influence to be taken. Germany’s public broadcasters must not become state broadcasters, said the judges. In future, the 44% of ZDF’s board members who are politicians or “part of government or close to government” must be reduced to 33%, and political parties must stop exerting “determining influence” on the naming of the other board members (who are supposed to be “far from government” but were in part being named by e.g. state governors).

Germany’s public broadcasters must also remain available to the public and not be allowed to wither by being restricted to obsolescing technology.

The judges demanded a cultural change at German public broadcasters, to become more of what they were always intended to be, said Süddeutsche.de: an institution for the entire society, reflecting diversity and variety in that society. Freedom of broadcasting as it is guaranteed in the German constitution is based on ensuring variety of content that cannot be achieved via a free market alone, the judges said. One judge’s minority opinion said these measures were too lenient, that 33% was still too high, and he called for emancipation of the public broadcasters from government entirely.

(ROOND FOONK shtots fair TROG.)

Unionsrecht

“Union law” in Germany apparently means European Union law and not the rules of the conservative Christian Democratic union consisting of the national-level C.D.U. + the Bavarian state C.S.U. This distinction became clear during a television news discussion about the legality of C.S.U. head Horst Seehofer’s strange and very unsettling* campaign promise to create a toll for foreigners driving on Bavarian roads. Mr. Seehofer’s political party, which has ruled Bavaria since 1946, claimed they did a survey that found 88% of Bavarians disliked foreigners enough to support the C.S.U.’s proposed toll or “Ausländer-Maut.” C.S.U. proponents also said the country of Austria introduced a similar foreigners fee and why wasn’t that illegal but their state-level proposal is.

The Bavarian state election (for the Landestag, state parliament) was Sunday, 15 Sep 2013, one week before Germany’s Bundestag election.

During the campaign—mercifully short by U.S. standards—the C.S.U. party promised Bavarian voters it would refuse to join a German federal government coalition after the 22 Sep 2013 federal election if their federal partners said they couldn’t tax foreigners. But it’s hard to believe the C.S.U. could afford to exit that coalition. Bavaria is said to have the best schools in Germany, so it’s hard to believe Bavarian voters would believe the C.S.U. when they promised to exit that coalition, either. The threat didn’t work on Chancellor Merkel (C.D.U.), on the surface at least. During what was apparently the only formal evening debate between the two largest parties’ candidates, she said on national television that the C.S.U.’s proposed foreigner-specific state road toll was not going to happen.

But the whole point appears to have been to talk about taxing foreigners in Bavarian beer tents, because Horst Seehofer persisted in doing that even after Angela Merkel’s quiet and very public “no.” Mr. Seehofer’s challenger, Munich mayor Christian Ude (S.P.D.), called it “eine bewusste Irreführung der Bevölkerung,” a deliberate confusion or leading-into-crazy-country of the people.

* Not only do proposals like this sound like they could grow racism, but as we now know since the Snowden trove revelations there are several ways the new toll could be used to spy on foreigners.

(Oo n YO nz wrecked.)

Anklagebehörde

“Prosecuting authority,” prosecutors’ office.

The Bavarian state bank BayernLB (Bayerische Landesbank), owned by the state of Bavaria and the Sparkasse banks (the largest German public bank), bought the Austrian bank HypoGroup Alpe Adria in 2007 and lost billions of euros as a result. On 07 Aug 2013 the Munich regional court Münchener Landgericht I announced it would not permit prosecution of charges brought against the entire Landesbank’s management board [Vorstand] while criticizing that charges hadn’t been brought against members of the higher-level overseeing “administrative board” [Verwaltungsrat], which gave permission for the sale. The supervisory Verwaltungsrat contained important C.S.U. politicians who might have been thus being protected by Bavarian prosecutors, the Bavarian judges imputed. Bavarian opposition parties S.P.D. and Freie Wähler [Free Voters] had filed complaints against BayernLB Verwaltungsrat members and state ministers Erwin Huber, Günther Beckstein and Kurt Faltlhauser plus some less important C.S.U. politicians for breach of trust of bank assets [“Veruntreuung von Bankvermögen”] in the Austrian acquisition, according to Süddeutsche.de and tagesschau.de.

BayernLB’s management board allegedly cited a falsely inflated purchase price to the supervisory administrative board, so theoretically criminal charges should be brought against management board members, according to tagesschau.de. But the Munich Landgericht I court denied prosecution of that on 07 Aug 2013, citing the latitude enjoyed by managers in negotiating sales. This allegedly angered Bavarian state prosecutors. Also angered by accusations they’d protected C.S.U. politicians by not bringing charges against members of the higher-level Verwaltungsrat [administrative board] supposed to monitor or do “controlling” of BayernLB’s management board, Bavarian state prosecutors responded that the management board members had failed to adequately inform the higher-level administrative board; indeed the supervisory Verwaltungsrat was deliberately defrauded with malice aforethought (“vorsätzlich arglistig getäuscht”) by members of the BayernLB management board, in the opinion of the prosecutors. The supervisory administrative board that okayed the deal consisted of people from the Bavarian state government (ruled by the C.S.U. since 1946) headed by Edmund Stoiber and people from the Sparkasse banks.

The German bank manager Bernie Ecclestone was accused of paying a bribe to was a member of BayernLB’s management board [Vorstand], not supervisory board [Verwaltungsrat].

In its 07 Aug 2013 announcement in the ongoing discussion about whom to prosecute at BayernLB, the Munich Landgericht noted that this sale of banks between state governments was partially a political act. But because no one could have foreseen events, the Munich Landgericht was only going to look into the BayernLB management board’s criminal culpability in overpayment of an additional 75 million euros lost by subsequently purchasing additional shares, and not into the BayernLB management board’s overpayment of 550 million euros in the 1.7-billion-euro deal as the prosecutors originally proposed.

Prosecutors filed a complaint about the Landgericht’s decision not to allow a criminal trial against the BayernLB management board for the lost half billion; the Munich higher regional court [Oberlandesgericht] “will now have to decide the dispute taking place in its own house.”

Before Bavaria bought it, according to the Guardian.co.uk, the Carinthian state government-owned Hypo Alpe Adria “acted as financier” for the horrifying Jörg Haider, charismatic leader of a terrifying populist racist Austrian political party that promoted hatreds in order to surf them to power. WienerTageszeitung.at wrote that HGAA had had to help support Haider’s Carinthian state government’s “patronage policies” [“gönnerhafte Politik”]. The recent Munich Landgericht I court decision about how to prosecute the Bavarian side did allow prosecution of an accusation that Jörg Haider, Kärntner Landeshauptmann [“Captain of Carinthia”] at the time of the sale, received a soccer stadium sponsorship bribe from BayernLB (2.5 million euros). An Austrian website also talked about overpayment for the expert opinion of an Austrian tax adviser associated with Haider as another possible bribe to him from the deal (6 million euros for six pages). No details found yet about money improperly funneled to Haider & Co. before the sale, when his party controlled the government that owned the bank.

According to the Manager-Magazin.de article, a 2007 audit by the Österreichische Nationalbank [Austrian National Bank] reported that Hypo Alpe Adria was shuffling fake capital around as early as spring 2006 to hide its losses, through obscurant Liechtenstein entities, and selling stock to itself to create the illusion of solvency. There was no Austrian regulatory follow-up on the audit report apparently.

BayernLB’s purchase of HGAA has already sparked multiple trials, with more to come. For example, Manager-Magazin.de wrote that Munich prosecutors initiated a criminal trial against BayernLB management board members on 05 May 2011—that trial hasn’t started yet—and BayernLB sued its former management board members for 200 million euros in damages in a civil trial that actually did start, on 19 Jun 2012. An Austrian criminal trial sentenced a Carinthian state party chief to five years in prison on 10 Oct 2012 for diverting money from the sale to his political party (a state government coalition partner with Jörg Haider’s FPÖ). The current head of the Bavarian C.S.U. party, Horst Seehofer, is to testify in Vienna before a commercial court [Handelsgericht Wien] about the schlamassel. When they gave Hypo Alpe Adria back to the country of Austria, did BayernLB sign a paper saying they would not sue for damages? The Vienna trial is about 3 billion euros of Bavarian taxpayer money that now-nationalized Hypo Alpe Adria does not want to return; this would be in addition to the 3.7 billion euros Bavaria already spent to bail out the bank.

Update on 24 Oct 2013: Bavarian prosecutors won their appeal! The Munich Oberlandesgericht overturned the Munich Landgericht’s decision and will be allowing full prosecution of ex-C.E.O. Werner Schmidt and six of the seven members of the BayernLB management board on the counts sought, for breach-of-trust losses of 550 million euros in the 2007 purchase of Hypo Alpe Adria in addition to the 75 million lost on extra HGAA stock bought after the purchase.

Update on 27 Feb 2014: Three former management board members of Hypo Alpe Adria were given prison sentences by an Austrian court for granting investors buy-back guarantees and thus, the court said, costing the bank several million euros. The Klagenfurt court [Schöffensenat] said they held back important information when they sold Hypo Alpe Adria to Bavarian state bank BayernLB. A 2.5-million-euro dividend they issued was also not in order, the court said.

In this breach of trust trial, former management board member Josef Kircher was sentenced to three years, some of which was changed to probation because he was willing to testify. Former management board member Siegfried Grigg was sentenced to three and a half years. The Flick Foundation was fined 600,000 euros. Former H.A.A. C.E.O. Wolfgang Kulterer was sentenced to one year. He has already been sentenced to several years in a related Hypo Alpe Adria matter in January 2014, when he admitted having kept mumm about side agreements. Former Hypo manager Tilo Berlin is also a defendent in the breach of trust trial but was unable to appear for health reasons, delaying resolution.

(ON clog ah beh HEARD ah.)

Auf dem reichen Auge blind

Blind in the rich eye,” a punning headline for a Zeit article about Bayern Munich soccer club president Uli Hoeneß that reminded readers Bavaria is the state with the least number of tax auditors per capita and the least number of audits per auditor (29 audits per 100,000 taxpayers in 2011). Taxes are still collected state-by-state in Germany, not by a central federal office like the USA’s IRS.

“Steep theses,” “sometimes tending toward polemics” this review said but also that the 2013 book Die Selbstbediener: Wie Bayerische Politiker sich den Staat zur Beute machen (“Serving themselves: How Bavarian politicians make the state their booty”) by Speyer professor Hans Herbert von Arnim started the recent discussion about the Bavarian CSU party (which has monopolized their state gubmint for fifty years and is also the only state party to join national-level ruling coalitions, such as Angela Merkel’s current government CDU/CSU + FDP). People are still shocked by the 500 million euros recently discovered in Uli Hoeneß’s Swiss bank accounts and by the number of Bavarian MP’s (17, no 30, no 79) subsequently discovered to have taken advantage of loopholes in a 2000 nepotism law to hire their relatives at government expense. Von Arnim says the nepotism is just the tip of the iceberg for upcoming Bavarian parliamentary scandals.

Other emerging facts that shocked this week included: that the Bavarian state parliament members (CSU monopoly) complained loudest about southern European countries takin’ all our money yet paid themselves the highest income of all the German state MP’s, at 10,200 euros/month before taxes. Von Arnim says this is possible because of a lack of transparency in Bavarian state budgeting which other German states have deliberately prevented by passing separate rules governing important financial issues such as legislator compensation. He criticizes insufficient transparency and controlling in Bavaria’s very large budget, which is the size of several other German states’ combined.

How can corruption like this happen? Recent angry op-eds said the newly discovered nepotistic politicians aren’t exactly Raffke (Berlin slang from ~1920 for a greedy grabber) but that after a party is in power for a long time its members’ mentality can shift. Politicians in the party no longer orient their moral sense on what’s right and wrong, but instead on what the other politicians are doing and, eventually, toward what’s possible. Politicians in other parties of the monopolized government begin to think the same way as well. So far the only party in the Bavarian parliament not discovered to have employed family members after 2000 is the FDP, which wasn’t in the state parliament because it lacked the votes.

(Ow! f   dame   REICH en   ow! ga    blinned.)

 

Fantastillionen

“Lots of money,” an “unimaginable fortune,” but no one knows how much yet. The Münchener Abendzeitung reported reports, firmly denied, of account balances totalling several hundred million euros. Uli Hoeneß, the president of German soccer’s version of the NY Yankees, FC Bayern Munich, submitted a Selbstanzeige in January 2013 for unpaid taxes on funds in one or more Swiss bank accounts and has already paid an initial lump sum of about six million in unpaid taxes. He said he didn’t report himself before January 2013 because he was betting the tax agreement with Switzerland would be ratified that provided amnesty, anonymity and a low tax rate for “tax sinners.” Tagesschau.de reports that it’s still unclear where the untaxed monies came from, whether from his bratwurst factory or from other sources.

ZDF heute journal found footage of Hoeneß on talk shows such as the charming Günther Jauch’s in autumn 2012 recommending low taxes for rich Germans because otherwise, he said, they would move to Austria, Switzerland or “who knows where.”

CSU chair Horst Seehofer confirmed on Saturday, 20 Apr 2013, at a CSU meeting in a Munich Hofbräuhaus cellar, that the district attorney was looking into the matter. The CSU had been going to propose Hoeneß as a political candidate, and he probably would have been confirmed.

The Münchener Abendzeitung commented on 20 Apr 2013:

“The question remains whether Hoeneß can now hope for the same support from the Bavarian state government as Franz Beckenbauer, to whom Bavarian finance minister Ludwig Huber once gave tips about tax flight into Switzerland while Huber was still in office?”

Achtung: Focus Magazin’s publisher is on the board of FC Bayern Munich.

(FAHN tossed ill ee own en.)

Inländische Steueroasen

“Domestic tax oases” inside a country. The head of the largest opposition party to Chancellor Merkel’s government coalition has accused the states of Bavaria and Hesse of acting like tax paradises within Germany by hiring low numbers of tax officials, reducing tax auditing frequencies and bruiting that about in order to attract businesses. It’s probably no coincidence that Bavaria and Hesse recently filed a lawsuit seeking to break the decades-old post-WWII reconstruction “solidarity pact” in which German states that are doing well financially pay money to German states that are not.

US state Delaware was mentioned in a “Planet Money”-style ZDF report that said it has very low taxes, very business-friendly courts, 800,000 inhabitants and 900,000 companies and is where most of the world’s firms “organize their America business.”

(E’en LEND isch ah   SHTOY er oh OZ en.)

“Andere Journalisten stellen sich nicht so an.”

“Other journalists aren’t doing that.” “Other journalists aren’t taking that attitude.” Spiegel-Online reports that this was the CSU response in late May 2011 when asked for a written statement on the Bavarian government’s position in the ongoing German search for “final storage” (Endlager) locations for nuclear waste. At the time, the CSU indicated that Bavaria might reverse its position and become a candidate for permanent nuclear waste disposal. The state’s environmental ministry did not respond to Spiegel’s follow-up questions, even though the government “is legally obligated to provide information.” Finally, they agreed to a phone interview but no written statement, because “other journalists weren’t” demanding written statements. CSU party spokesperson Ulrike Strauß told der Spiegel that written statements weren’t normal.

Spiegel emailed Strauß their versions of her oral statements for her approval, and she called the top editors’ secretary (Sekretariat der Chefredaktion) to complain. Instead of the senior editors, the business editor returned her call, repeating that the magazine was going to insist on written quotes. Ultimately, nine days after Spiegel’s initial query on 23 May 2011, the state environmental minister announced that Bavaria would not be used for permanent nuclear waste disposal.

Spiegel goes on to report that, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in March 2011 CSU spokesperson Ulrike Strauß phoned the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian {Public} Broadcasting, BR) news department to complain about a critical report about a CSU politician. The critical report was then replaced in subsequent news programs; it aired only once. BR says no pressure was exerted. Strauß says she acted entirely alone, on her own. The report in question was about environmental minister Markus Söder (CSU)’s contradictory statements before and after the Fukushima nuclear disaster regarding whether the Bavarian nuclear power plant Isar I was entirely safe. Before Fukushima it was safe. After, not so safe.

(ON derr eh   journaLIST en   SHTELL en   zichh   nichht   zoh   ON.)

Causa Strepp, Causa Horst Seehofer

“The Strepp Affair,” “The Case of Horst Seehofer.” The Bavarian state branch of Angela Merkel’s CDU party insists on remaining separate from the general CDU and calls itself the CSU. Horst Seehofer is in charge. The CSU has been posturing in national politics for an upcoming state election. Last Sunday, CSU spokesperson Hans Michael Strepp called the public broadcasting ZDF television station and said he’d heard they were going to broadcast a news report about the rival Bavarian SPD’s recent festive nomination of their top candidate, Christian Ude. Strepp told ZDF that neither the public broadcasting ARD nor the public broadcasting news and documentaries channel Phoenix was planning to report on the Bavarian SPD’s state convention and far be it from Strepp to want to tell them their business but he wanted to give them food for thought that there could be discussions afterward if ZDF went it alone. ZDF interpreted this as exerting influence and broadcast the report anyway. Then they broadcast a report about Strepp’s phone call.

At first, the CSU said nothing bad had happened. At noon on Thurs. 25 Oct 2012, Horst Seehofer announced that Spokesperson Strepp had resigned because Strepp had said he hadn’t exerted any influence on ZDF and the ZDF disagreed with that statement and Seehofer could not clarify this situation. The CSU’s position is now that Strepp acted entirely alone. In a lively parliamentary discussion after Seehofer’s announcement of Strepp’s resignation, Bavarian M.P.’s cast a lot of aspersions. CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt has now been dragged into it because he obfuscated rather than clarified and because people find it credible that he might have given Strepp the incredible order to make the call. The Bavarian SPD demanded that Seehofer and Dobrindt resign their seats on ZDF management boards (!).

German Green party member Jürgen Trittin has demanded that all politicians holding government office resign from public broadcasting channels’ supervisory boards. Trittin said the Greens have been demanding this for years, and that a gray zone forms where government and media entangle. Trittin also said this is what you get when people have been in power longer than Fidel Castro.

(COW zah   SHTREP,   COW zah   Horst   ZAY hoaf er.)

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