State-owned broadcaster must restrict activities

BRUSSELS — Stricter controls on Austrian pubcaster ORF are to be introduced following an investigation by the European Commission.

Case is the first to be settled by the Euro regulator since new rules for state funding of public service broadcasting were adopted in July.

These promise an increased focus on accountability and control at the national level, plus transparent impact assessment for publicly funded new media services.

To satisfy the commission, the Austrian government committed to clarify ORF’s public service remit and to limit funding to what is “strictly necessary” to fulfill public service tasks.

It will create a new media authority to supervise ORF’s activities and check that it is not being overpaid.

Authority will also vet proposed new media services, holding public consultations to test added value for Austrian society and market impact.

Plans for a TV-Thek offering downloads of ORF’s own TV and radio productions will be among the first services to be tested. Proposals for specialist information and culture channels must also go out to consultation.

Pubcaster has also been told to sub-license unused sport rights to third parties and limit programming on ORF Sport Plus to minority sports of interest to Austrians.

Government and ORF have 12 months to implement the commitments.

Investigation was prompted by complaints from Austria’s commercial TV and newspaper publishing federations.

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