The heavy politicisation of public broadcasting and very narrow ownership of the print media is still a potential threat to press freedom.
The public TV and radio body, ORF, remains strongly politicised. Its monitoring council contains no politicians but all 35 members are named by political parties, which maintains in practice the dominance of the ruling Christian conservative ÖVP and the far-right populist FPÖ.
A growing number of ORF journalists criticised (anonymously) the lack of editorial independence and increasing power of the politicians. Since the ORF’s broadcasting monopoly ended in 2002, a privately-owned nationwide TV station, atv+, has been set up. The advent of digital TV should boost further such broadcasting diversity, but the ORF still has a virtual monopoly and remains the country’s most influential media.
The narrow ownership of the written press is still excessive. Most magazines belonging to the Fellner group which, through the German company Gruner & Jahr, is part of the Bertelsmann media empire, while the Mediaprint group controls most daily papers. The independent press council watchdog body has not been replaced since its abolition in June 2002. However, the system of media subsidies, handed out depending on the profitability and political leanings of a media outlet, was reformed.
Harassment and obstruction
A national "integration treaty" aimed at foreigners has, since 1 January 2003, obliged journalists to show their fluency in German to obtain a residence permit. After criticism from the Foreign Press Association, the authorities dropped the requirement for accredited coverage of official occasions.