Austria Table of Contents

The Austrian press operates freely under the constitution of 1920, which guarantees all citizens freedom of expression in speech, writing, and print. The constitution also forbids any government censorship of the press or electronic media. Austria has a well-developed system of print and electronic media that provides its citizens with a wide variety of news sources and entertainment.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The Austrian newspaper market is one of the most concentrated in Europe. Three dailies, the Neue Kronen-Zeitung, Täglich Alles, and Kurier, account for more than half of the newspapers sold in the country. By 1993 their daily circulations were 1.1 million, 500,000, and 390,000, respectively, with higher circulations on Sundays. All three specialize in tabloid-style journalism, with a tendency toward sensationalism. Better educated Austrians, especially in the larger cities, read either Die Presse or Der Standard, both high-quality newspapers published in Vienna with circulations of less than 100,000.

As of the early 1990s, a total of seventeen daily newspapers were published in Austria, and thirteen regional editions of some of these papers were published. Since the early 1970s, the importance of political party newspapers has declined precipitously. The SPÖ publishes one newspaper and the ÖVP two, all of which have circulations of less than 100,000. The SPÖ's venerable newspaper, Arbeiterzeitung, established in 1895, was sold to private interests in the late 1980s when the party decided it no longer wished to cover the newspaper's massive losses.

Austria also has many periodicals and magazines. Among the weekly periodicals, Profil, with a circulation of more than 100,000 in 1993, has emerged as one of the best practitioners of investigative journalism in the country. Another weekly magazine, News, has a circulation of more than 200,000, although it was only founded in October 1992. Other periodicals of note include Wochenpresse, a weekly; Trend, a monthly journal devoted to economic news; and Wiener, a monthly.

Rising concern over financial difficulties faced by small publishers led the Austrian government to decide in 1975 that subsidies should be made available to newspapers and magazines meeting certain criteria. For a daily newspaper to receive government funds, it must have a minimum circulation of 10,000 and regional distribution. Weekly newspapers are required to have a minimum circulation of 5,000. Magazines are eligible for funds if they publish between four and forty issues a year. To be considered for funding, a newspaper or magazine must file a formal application with the government. Specific allocations are decided on a case-by-case basis, and various formulas are used to spread the funds among a large number of publications. No single newspaper can receive more than 5 percent of the total budget earmarked for support of the daily press.

In 1982 Austria brought its press laws up to date with the passage of the Federal Law on the Press and Other Journalistic Media, which clarifies the rights of individuals to sue for damages when they believe they have been slandered or defamed by the press. The law establishes maximum amounts of S50,000 for defamation of character and S100,000 for slander. The law stipulates that damages are not to be awarded if it can be shown that the public interest was served by the publication of the material or of allegations in dispute. The law also grants individuals and corporations the right to respond in print to published reports they regard as defamatory. However, a newspaper can refuse to publish a rejoinder if it can prove that the report is not factual. Individuals and corporations may respond only to factual reporting; articles containing editorial opinions and value judgments are not covered by this provision of the press law.

Other provisions of the 1982 law strengthened the rights of journalists. Journalists are guaranteed the right to refuse to collaborate in assignments they regard as incompatible with their ethical convictions. The law also affirms the right of journalists not to divulge their sources in a court of law. The law further states that the government may not place the communications facilities of an organ of the press under surveillance unless it has reason to believe that a crime carrying a sentence of at least ten years may have been committed.

Radio and Television

As of late 1993, radio and television programming in Austria was provided exclusively by Austrian Radio and Television (Österreichischer Rundfunk--ORF). This state monopoly is expected to end in the mid-1990s because such monopolies are no longer seen by many European jurists as compatible with the free exchange of information and ideas. ORF was formed as a public corporation in 1945 and reorganized in 1967 for greater political and financial independence. In 1974 a constitutional law was passed giving ORF complete financial autonomy from the government and guaranteeing it freedom from attempts by the government or any state body to exert influence on programming. Additional laws passed in that year required ORF to present objective reporting, a variety of opinions, and balanced programming.

As of 1993, ORF had two television channels and three radio channels. FS 1 and FS 2, the two television channels, feature a wide variety of programs, including news, entertainment, education, and music. In 1988 the nine regional ORF studios began broadcasting local programs. Various groups attempted to make the case for allowing independent television in Austria, but, as of 1993, they had not persuaded the government to lift the monopoly enjoyed by ORF. During the 1980s, cable television became available, and by 1990 roughly 15 percent of Austrian homes received cable programming. One of the major cable programs, 3 Sat, is a joint venture of ORF, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, and one of Germany's television networks.

ORF has four radio channels. The first channel, Österreich 1, features culturally oriented programs devoted to music, literature, science, and news. The second channel, Österreich Regional, carries programming produced by the nine regional ORF studios, with an emphasis on popular entertainment and local events. Österreich 3 is an entertainment channel, which also carries hourly news broadcasts. The fourth network, Blue Danube Radio, is also an entertainment channel but differs in that it broadcasts mainly in English. Its news programs are in German, English, and French.

More about the Government and Politics of Austria.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress