Research Papers

Placing digital in a new media landscape. Plans to liberalise the Austrian TV market throw up formidable challenges

Intermission - media and media policy in Austria -this is the blunt title of a recently published sharp analysis of two young Austrian public journalists. Their resume is radical: the Austrian state regulator has failed to set an appropriate framework for a diverse media landscape, particularly for the electronic sector. Old traditions of corporate consensus politics (Sozialpartnerschaft) have led to mutual interweavings of politics and the media. This has paralysed the media development of the country such that private television has been left stuck in the pipeline. In fact, the Austrian government is the last in Europe to support a monopoly with the public broadcasting corporation ORF, although Europe has long opted for an open and pluralist broadcasting structure. Besides technical frequency limitations it has primarily been political inertia, but also the argument that private television via antenna would not survive economically which still hinders the government to open the market in free-to-air TV.

Broadcasting in Austria has long been synonymous with the ORF. This is set to change with the new coalition government of the conservative People's Party ÖVP with Mr. Haider's far-right Freedom Party FPÖ. Both aim at quickly introducing private TV. Their statement has announced a much-desired innovative statutory environment for fair and transparent competition in Austrian television broadcasting. The burning re-regulatory issues to be tackled in legislation period 2000 to 2003 involve:

  • establishing an independent media and telecommunications authority to notably license a new private terrestrial television station
  • obtaining expert opinion as to frequencies for national terrestrial TV and digital TV
  • introducing terrestrial national private TV by taking account of available analogue and digital transmission frequencies
  • renewing the Austrian Broadcasting Act of 1967 with a view to the impact of digitisation and convergence

Publication details

Author: Paul Murschetz
Published: Intermedia, International Institute of Communications, September 2000, Vol. 28/No. 5, pp. 8-12.

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