Gerhard Draxler: – “The ORF is shaking to its foundations”


Former journalist Gerhard Draxler voluntarily leads the committee investigating the alleged intervention system in the state workshop of Lower Austria. In the interview with “Krone” he emphasizes: “The ORF is not committed to politics.”

“crown”:An ORF internal committee examines the inside of the ORF. How free and independent are you as head of this committee?
Gerard Draxler:
The Commission acts completely independently and without instructions. Apart from the audit assignment, there were no additional requests or interventions. As for me, and because we are currently on the shore of Lake Wörthersee: I am as free as if I were swimming in Lake Wörthersee. And I can swim well.

What does the exam look like?
On Monday we will start with the surveys on the Küniglberg. We will invite a total of 70 to 80 colleagues to hearings: these are mainly journalists from the state studio in Lower Austria and some from the “ZIB” and the radio editorial office of Küniglberg, who have communicated with the state studio. We check whether Robert Ziegler has violated ORF law, editorial bylaws or program guidelines. The ethical side must be judged by others.

When will the test report be ready?
It will take time to question so many people. One thing is certain: we work fast, but we are not a rapid-fire committee. And I will not issue an interim report, before the state elections in Lower Austria, this would be ammunition for one side or the other, it would unnecessarily fuel public discussion. In addition, this could cause a wildfire, including in the other state studios.

Will you at least keep Director General Roland Weißmann informed?
No. Neither. He trusts me.

The ORF editorial board has requested Robert Ziegler’s suspension. Why isn’t he suspended?
I can well understand this request, because there is a lot of unrest in the editorial office. The frustration is great, many expect a liberation. And the editors respond to the mood of the journalists, who also do an excellent job in Lower Austria – under not exactly easy circumstances. However, the committee does not have to rule on employment law steps. In any case, I am against any form of prejudice, and of course the presumption of innocence also applies to Robert Ziegler.

There is another way: ORF editor-in-chief Matthias Schrom went on vacation because of a chat affair and then resigned.
Apparently Matthias Schrom had a different view of the office. For Robert Ziegler, an extended Christmas break would likely have calmed the situation.

What needs to happen in order to finally say: the Commission made sense – or vice versa, we could have avoided that?
We will carefully review the allegations and determine whether there have been any violations. But it’s about more. The question is: can the ORF fulfill its journalistic mission, which is to report independently, in a balanced and fair manner? The allegations in Lower Austria have an impact on the entire ORF and shake it to its very foundations. One of its pillars, namely that of public broadcasting, which is only committed to its viewers and listeners and not to politics, is already starting to wobble – that’s not good at all. And it’s about the journalistic attitude: if you constantly call for independence, you cannot corrupt that independence internally. The committee can be a wake-up call for all editors.

The ORF is dependent on politics for its financing. In that respect, he is also committed to politics.
No he is not! This is a completely wrong estimate.

The tension between ORF and politics can also be seen in the Board of Trustees, this highest organ of the ORF is staffed exclusively politically through so-called “Friend Groups”, or in the hearing rights of the county governors in the appointment of ORF county directors. Still not committed to politics?
No he is not. The composition of the Board of Trustees, ie the appointment of the members by the federal government and the Länder, corresponds to the actual constitution of Austria. However, I stumble over the word ‘circle of friends’: it resonates with an attitude that is not conducive to public confidence in the ORF. If the right to be heard does not translate into the right to make proposals, it is absolutely fine for the highest ORF representative to inform the highest state representative of who will be the state director.

How did you deal with political interventions yourself?
Two answers to that. When I became provincial governor in Carinthia, my first official act was to abolish the position of provincial governor. At the time, some ORF state directors were not so pleased. And I said to a board member of the foundation who had announced interventions: I will put the intervention online the first time I call. I never heard from the man again.

How pushy was Jörg Haider?
He never intervened. But those around him were extremely dangerous and tried again and again to brutally influence the editors.

Source: Krone


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