Turmoil in Austria’s media landscape
On Thursday, the Austrian parliament decided to discontinue the world’s oldest daily newspaper: as of 1 July the state-owned Wiener Zeitung will only be published digitally. At the same time, private media are protesting against the reform of public broadcasting under which national broadcaster ORF will be allowed to produce new content exclusively for the internet. The broadcasting fee system is also to be restructured and the fees lowered.
ORF should not be the only broacaster to benefit from fees
Austria’s politicians are committing several mistakes here, Wiener Zeitung criticises:
“Media politics has done it. Not the death blow for the printed Wiener Zeitung — that has also been ‘dispatched’ in the truest sense of the word. ... Because the real goal now is to divert attention from the fact that the ORF law is yet another historic mistake. ... The historic mistake is the plan to introduce a household fee without safeguarding the quality of private media at the same time, although this would have been an easy thing to do. Because rather than being an ORF contribution it would be a media contribution that could have also been used to pay for public content produced by private media too. After all, ORF should not have a monopoly on this — fortunately those times are over.”
Media diversity is not a luxury
The Kleine Zeitung sees democracy in danger:
“Of course it’s true that it’s not the state’s job to make sure a daily newspaper stays in print. And it’s true that many of those who are now shedding crocodile tears did their bit towards digging its grave in better days through economic inaction. ... Politicians regard ‘media diversity’ as a troublesome luxury and prefer to anxiously pin their hopes on a privileged state broadcaster which they plan to keep in check via party committees. This has not worked in the past, but learning from mistakes is not everyone’s forte. ... Media diversity belongs to the very essence of a free society. ... Historically, every totalitarian regime gagged the media as a first step.”