ORF ups film funding

Austrian pubcaster settles with local industryites

Austrian pubcaster ORF has calmed the fears of local filmmakers following months of intense wrangling by agreeing to raise film subsidy contributions by 30%, from E5.9 million ($8.8 million) to $11.9 million a year.

The decision follows the Austrian government’s decision to bail out the financially strapped pubcaster with $240 million to make up for lost revenue — ORF has been hit hard by sinking ad and license fee coin.

ORF execs have been restructuring the pubcaster and cutting budgets, much to the chagrin of the film industry, which has lobbied loud and hard against cuts in film support. Indeed, filmmakers have long been pushing ORF for an increase in support to around $15 million a year.

The agreement follows days of deliberation by Austria’s coalition government and ORF director-general Alexander Wrabetz, who has drawn the scorn of filmmakers for openly questioning ORF’s role as one of the main pillars of Austria’s film industry.

With the tax-payer-supported cash infusion, ORF has also promised to pump more than $140 million into TV production next year, including TV movies, series and documentary fare.

Wolfgang Reiter, a spokesman for the film industry initiative Plattform Filmwirtschaft und Filmkultur mit dem ORF, says the pubcaster’s decision is satisfactory in view of the difficult economic situation.

“It’s not 100% what we wanted, but it’s part of the political process to compromise and we are satisfied with the result.”

With the recent success of Austrian films at home and abroad, the government has been hard-pressed to allow any cuts in film funding.

The Austrian box office has been soaring like never before, breaking the 1 million mark in admissions for the first time ever this year with major local hits including Kurt Ockermueller’s comedy drama “Echte Wiener — Die Sackbauer Saga” and Wolfgang Murnberger’s comedy thriller “Der Knockenmann.”

In addition, recent films like Stefan Ruzowitzky’s foreign language Oscar winner “The Counterfeiters,” Michael Haneke’s Palm d’Or recipient “The White Ribbon” and Jessica Hausner’s fest fave “Lourdes” have catapulted Austrian film to the fore.

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