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Austria – (C3) Transparency of data on media system

Score in short:

Transparency is given with regard to media legislation and the ORF. Ownership structures of private media companies, however, lack transparency.

Score in detail:

Basic data on the Austrian media system, in particular on media legislation, are easily accessible online and provided by the federal Chancellery. furthermore, the administrative authority RTR provides regular reports on developments in the Austrian media and telecommunications markets (RTR 2009a, 2009c) (see also e6). The ORF is obliged by law to annually publish a business report containing information on its financial performance (ORf 2009). furthermore, the ORF publishes a report on the fulfillment of the public service mission since 2008 (ORf 2008, 2010e). Private media companies are not obliged to publish their economic results and refrain from doing so. Therefore data on the advertising revenues of private media companies are not accessible to Austrian citizens.

According to the Media Act (Mediengesetz 2009, §§ 24-25), all media companies must provide information on ownership structures and changes as well as on their fundamental orientation in their imprint. further news coverage on personnel fluctuations or changes in ownership structures occurs occasionally. Due to legal aspects, changes in mission statements rarely take place. Not all media companies provide their mission statements on their websites; those that are members of the publishers’ association are published on this website.

Data on the Austrian media system in general and the Austrian news media companies in particular from independent institutions are quite abundant, but usually limited to a specific readership and not widely known. Our interviewee from public service radio criticized the lack of media education in Austria, which led to low awareness of the interrelations of journalistic and democratic values among citizens and little knowledge about the ownership or financial structures of the leading Austrian news media.