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Austria – (E4) Minority / Alternative media

Score in short:

The availability and institutionalization of minority media depends on whether or not the minority is legally recognized. Overall, a wide range of minority media are available; however their reach is limited.

Score in detail:

Austria has six ethnic minority groups recognized by law whose languages have official status: Croatian, Romani, Slovak, Slovene, Czech and Hungarian. furthermore, Austrian Sign language is recognized as a minority language. Particularly in the 1960s and again in the 1990s, the number of speakers of Turkish and the languages of the former Republic of Yugoslavia increased; however their languages do not have official status as minority languages in Austria. for this reason, media initiatives in these languages are either private or non-commercial projects (Bayzitlioglu 2008).

The ORF is obliged by law to provide programs in the official minority languages (ORF Gesetz 2009, § 5). Some regional studios have special newsrooms that exclusively produce content in minority languages. On television, one nationwide broadcasted format (Heimat, fremde Heimat) is dedicated to minority issues such as integration, cultural diversity, etc.; furthermore, regular television and radio news magazines in all official minority languages are available and can also be accessed from the Internet platform ORF TVthek (ORf 2010a). The proportion of programs with additional features for people with disabilities is currently about 36 % of the ORF output; audio-commentaries for blind people are available for some entertainment and sports formats; extended subtitles are obtainable on Teletext for some news and service magazines (ORf 2010b 2010c). Additional offers translated in Austrian Sign language involve news, parliamentary debates and two formats of children’s programs, which are available with digital cable or satellite receivers (ORf 2010d). Nevertheless, critics argue that ORF’s minority program is more focused on cultural than on structural differences, and therefore marginalizes political aspects (Böse & Kogoj 2002).

Programs in minority languages that are not officially recognized are frequently broadcasted in so-called free radio and television projects. In 2008, Austria had 14 non-commercial radio projects, all of them limited to specific regions, the largest in Vienna (Orange 94.0), Klagenfurt (Radio Agora) and Graz (Radio Helsinki) (Purkarthofer, Pfisterer, & Busch 2008, p. 19). furthermore, a non-commercial television initiative with a significant amount of foreign language content is located in Vienna (OKTO TV). In addition, a wide variety of alternative and minority magazines and online media are found on the Austrian media market. However, their financial situation is in part critical and highly dependent on limited public subsidies. RTR and KommAustria are in charge of the public funds established by law (KommAustria-Gesetz 2010; § 9i; Publizistikförderungsgesetz 2006, § 7). In 2010, subsidies of 1 million euR were distributed among 16 non-commercial broadcasting initiatives (RTR 2010). In 2008, the first year in which non-German-speaking periodicals could apply for subsidies, € 360,999 in total were given to 93 magazines (RTR 2009a, p. 59).

The number of journalists with an immigrant background in the mainstream media is out of proportion with the number of immigrants in the Austrian society (Gouma 2008, p. 212). Nevertheless, private and non-commercial initiatives for promoting and strengthening the position of minority and alternative news media are becoming more visible through the organization of public discussions, workshops, research, fairs or conferences (Civilmedia, m-media). Some programs have recently begun advancing the integration of minorities as contributors to mainstream media newsrooms, like weekly reports written by journalists with an immigrant background in the daily newspaper Die Presse (Bayzitlioglu 2008).