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Top job

December 11, 2009

German public TV network ZDF has appointed a new editor-in-chief. Though the decision was welcomed by politicians and journalists, the events that led up to it have left a sour taste.

Peter Frey
Frey is a well-known face on German TVImage: AP Photo/Sascha Baumann,ZDF

The board of ZDF public television reached a unanimous decision on Thursday to appoint TV journalist Peter Frey as the public broadcaster's new editor-in-chief.

The 52-year-old journalist currently heads the ZDF's Berlin operations. He will take up his new post at ZDF headquarters in Mainz on April 1, 2010.

Frey succeeds Nikolaus Brender, who was forced out of the job during a heated board meeting on October 27 after spending 10 years at the helm.

ZDF Director Markus Schaechter backed Frey's appointment, describing him as an "excellent and acclaimed top journalist."

The Social Democrat state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, Kurt Beck – a staunch backer of Brender – also welcomed Frey's appointment, adding that Frey had been outspoken in his criticism of how the board had dealt with his predecessor.

Ulterior motives?

Nikolaus Brender
Some politicians considered Brender too independentImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Beck had been the main adversary of his fellow board member Roland Koch, conservative state premiere of Hesse, when it came to the crunch over the renewal of Brender's contract.

The ZDF board is dominated by Germany's leading political parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU), and Koch was considered the driving force behind Brender's forced exit.

The episode triggered intense public debate as to whether politicians had too much clout in the media, especially since the ZDF is a public broadcaster that has the constitutional mandate to provide the German public with reliable and independent news coverage.

Editor: Michael Lawton