PRAGUE — The last bastion of public television in Europe may be about to give way to commercial TV.
The Austrian government has hired German research company L&S Radio Communications to search for unused frequencies that can be licensed to private TV.
The firm, which did similar work in Germany, Holland and Portugal, should have its million-dollar report completed by the end of the year, to coincide with the Dec. 5 due date for the draft of a law on private TV.
The decision is one of the first initiatives to come out of the new Austrian Dept. of Media and Culture, which began operating in mid-summer.
The independent German firm is commissioned to locate both analog and digital frequencies.
ORF, the Austrian public broadcaster, said that it has found only a couple of frequencies in its own searches, but management at private cabler ATV is hopeful that the independent hunt will unearth enough frequencies to comprise something approaching a national network.
ATV is seen as the most likely broadcaster to win a tender for frequencies, which could happen in the first half of 2001.
ATV general manager Tillmann Fuchs would like to see the station broadcasting terrestrially to 80% of Austria by the beginning of 2002.
Along with ORF’s two channels, a third national frequency exists that is not in use. It is currently held by the government, although ORF would like that frequency for its own digital transmission plans — which are at least two years down the line.