Press Release

Dr. Thomas Bellut bids farewell as ZDF Director-General

11 March 2022

This article was originally published by ZDF.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier: “ZDF has become a successful brand of trust”.
Thomas Bellut, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Norbert Himmler Copyright: ZDF/Torsten Silz
Thomas Bellut, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Norbert Himmler. Copyright: ZDF/Torsten Silz

Dr. Thomas Bellut bid farewell as Director of ZDF with a ceremony in Mainz on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Bellut has “made ZDF a successful brand of trust,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, praising the achievements of the media manager, who has been at the helm of the Mainz-based broadcaster for the past ten years.

In light of the Ukraine war, Steinmeier emphasised the great importance of press freedom: “I thank all the journalists who report from the war zones under unimaginably difficult conditions.” Freedom of the press, he said, is a hard-won and contested value. “Without it, democracies cannot survive in the long run; with it, autocracies cannot survive. Hardly anyone knows this better than Thomas Bellut. You are passionately committed to the fight for international press freedom,” Steinmeier said.

“Journalism is – far too often – life-threatening. But journalism is also vital for survival, and for all of us, for liberal democracy,” the German president emphasised. “That’s why I thank all journalists for their courageous work – and protecting their work is the job of all of us.”

The chairwoman of the ZDF Television Council, Marlehn Thieme, emphasised Bellut’s achievement in making ZDF the undisputed market leader for ten years in a row: “The ten years of your directorship will remain associated with ten years of ZDF success,” Thieme said. She also praised Bellut’s journalistic and professional commitment: “As a political scientist and historian, you take the instrumentalisation of media in the world and German history in the 20th century as a personal responsibility!”

In her laudatory speech, Malu Dreyer, Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate and Chairwoman of the ZDF Board of Directors, emphasised that Bellut had been “a reliable, unagitated, yet very self-confident interlocutor to the states” in matters of broadcasting policy, and that he had further developed Rhineland-Palatinate as a media location. “Media policy is democracy policy,” Dreyer said. The outgoing Director-General had clearly positioned ZDF in the media policy debate and had made the company “leaner and more powerful and initiated the departure into the digital world.”

Thomas Bellut thanked the German President in his farewell speech. In the current crisis, he said, his words were an encouragement for free reporting and a plea against the coercion of opinions, of news, against the restriction of freedom. Bellut: “In Germany, freedom of the press is a set standard among the democratic parties. Right now, I’m happy to be able to say that sentence after 40 years of journalism.”

Bellut’s personal conclusion: “For me, the programme has always been the linchpin of my work: the ZDF family must be recognised and successful, in acceptance and quality debates, all over Germany.”

Thomas Bellut, born in Osnabrück on March 8, 1955, has worked for ZDF since 1984. Among other things, he headed the main editorial department for domestic politics. Until 2002, viewers knew him primarily from election programmes, the “Politbarometer” and the “Was nun, …?” shows. Bellut became Programme Director in 2002 and Director General of ZDF in 2012.

This article was originally published and translated by ZDF.

Featured Image: BERLIN, GERMANY – APRIL 3, 2018: ZDF Symbol At The Capital Studio In Berlin, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, German For Second German Television , Usually Shortened To ZDF. Credit: cries/istock