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Austria sets b’cast overseer

Org to cover broadcast media, distribute licenses

PRAGUE — The Austrian parliament voted yesterday to establish Austria Komm, a national communications regulatory body covering TV and radio broadcast media and distribution licenses.

Originally planned as a non-political body, it will answer to the prime minister when it begins operating in the fall.

The regulator is seen as the first step in prepping Austria for the launch of a private terrestrial TV station.

The next important move is expected at the government ministers’ meeting March 13, when the Private TV Act is expected to be approved before going before parliament. A rough draft of a new law covering public broadcaster ORF is also expected to be presented. The resulting legislation could see the reduction of advertising revenues for the two ORF channels, perhaps by banning commercial sponsorship and product placement.

National cable web ATV is most likely to benefit from the new laws. SBS recently acquired a 25% stake in the station, making it one of four equal shareholders.

The country’s first private channel is expected to launch in February or March 2002. With no strong competition locally, ATV seems assured of winning an anticipated fall license tender.

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