Austria – (F5) Company rules against internal influence on newsroom / editorial staff

Score in short:

The separation of newsrooms from management is formally practiced by all media organizations in this media sample and can be interpreted as common in the Austrian media system.

Score in detail:

Editorial matters are strictly up to the journalists themselves. The effectiveness of the separation depends on the media type and the financing situation. According to a survey among Austrian journalists, about 60 % report occasional conflicts of interest between the editorial department and the newsroom (S. Weber 2006, p. 43).

In public service broadcasting, there is no direct contact between the information section and the advertising department, as common projects (such as infomercials) are prohibited by law. Similarly, all editors-in-chief stressed that the presence of members of the advertising department at editorial meetings was strictly banned. Moreover, they mentioned that meetings with the advertising department are exclusively their responsibility. Nevertheless, concerning special supplements, co-operation between the journalistic staff and the advertising department is inevitable, even though the decision on newsworthy issues is usually incumbent upon the journalists. Some newspapers (Die Presse) have so-called “content engines”, which are part of the advertising department and in charge of advertorial content. In other newsrooms, freelancers contribute to advertising content. An exception is the online media sector, where members of the permanent staff occasionally produce advertorial content. This is, however, in part contradictory to survey results among journalists; almost half of them pointed out that they had to write advertising content at least sometimes; 11.7 % even do this regularly (S. Weber 2006, pp. 43-45).

In three of the examined media organizations, the editors-in-chief held a double position in that they were also part of the management board. Overall, this was considered as a potential conflict of interest by the editors-in-chief. In particular, situations where journalistic interests collide with financial ones were critically reflected on. Nevertheless, all three editors-in-chief stressed that the inclusion of a newsroom member in management decisions could also have advantages and promote the independence of the newsroom.