Austria – (E6) Content monitoring instruments

Score in short:

Publicly available institutionalised and independent media monitoring instruments are rare in Austria.

Score in detail:

Austria does not self-inspect its media content by default, and it never did. No publicly accessible media content monitoring is in place. The APA runs a commercial company, APA DeFacto, which collects all sorts of media content in their database, but access is restricted and analyses are sold to commercial customers. This database is highly useful for research purposes, but the company does not itself publish any research findings, apart from occasional rankings such as the representation of politicians in Austrian media (Who has been mentioned most often? Politikerranking).

The public service broadcaster ORF is obliged by law to publish an annual analysis of its programme (ORF-Gesetz, 2021: para. 7). These annual reports are produced internally by ORF and must be published on its website (latest report: ORF, 2019). It is very detailed with regard to legal programme and content obligations. It reports about the amount and share of European programmes within the entire programming, according to EU legislation. Nonetheless, these reports focus on numbers, counting minutes and genres, and not on content and quality itself. This could only be done by external research.

Such content-related research on Austrian television has been commissioned and financed by the regulator KommAustria and RTR for several years (2007, 2008, 2010, 2012; the latest: Woelke, 2012), but were discontinued thereafter. These programme analyses included ORF channels, as well as private-commercial television channels (ATV, PULS 4, ServusTV).

In 2015, research efforts were undertaken to measure the quality of the Austrian media (Seethaler, 2015), but this research was limited to a single study. From 2019 to 2021, a tri-national comparative news content analysis in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland has been done by several university institutes in these countries, but results are not yet published (expected 2021).

Compared to 2009, there is even less media monitoring in Austria exercised by independent supervising bodies. The only systematic monitoring instrument is ORF’s internal annual report.