Peter Frey to take over at Germany's ZDF

After Nikolaus Brender re-appointment blocked

COLOGNE, Germany -- Peter Frey has been named the new editor-in-chief at German public broadcaster ZDF following a nomination process plagued by internal drama and political scandal.

Frey was not the first candidate for the job. The contract for ZDF's current editor-in-chief, Nikolaus Brender, was up for renewal. Brender had the support of the network's director and a majority of its rank-and-file.

But Roland Koch, a right-wing politician and governor of the state of Hessen, where ZDF has its corporate headquarters, blocked the move. Using his influence with other conservative political appointees on ZDF's executive board, Koch was able to prevent Bender from receiving the two-thirds majority of votes he need to renew his contract.

Koch has been accused of trying to silence free speech and exert political control over the country's tax-financed broadcasting system. One opposition politician has dubbed him "Roland Berlusconi" comparing Koch's move to the infamous media meddling of Italy's prime minister.

Frey will take over from Brender in April, 2010. In a statement, he said his top job will be to restore ZDF's "public credibility...which has suffered" in the current crisis.

The ZDF scandal has led for calls to reform Germany's broadcasting system to reduce political influence on the public airwaves. The executive and management boards at ZDF are dominated by politicians or political appointees. Of the 77 members of the network's management board, only five are not affiliated with any political party -- those being appointees named by various religious groups.
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