In May 2019 the Austrian government increased the funding for the private media sector by € 5 million. However, this substantial increase will solely benefit the commercial private media sector – the funding for the community media sector remains the same. AMARC Europe invited Josef Seethaler to discuss the impact of these changes on the Austrian Community Radio sector. AMARC Europe reacted to this biased amendment of funding of the Austrian private broadcasting sector with a statement to the Austrian government in inglés y Alemán.

On 6 May 2019, the Constitutional Committee del Parlamento Nacional de Austria decidió por amplia mayoría a aumentar la financiación para las estaciones de radio y televisión privadas comerciales por cinco millones de euros: de 15 a 20 millones anuales. Los fondos adicionales son a “particularmente formatos de TV de beneficios que promueven la comprensión democrática, la información social y política y la educación o [...] la transferencia de la competencia mediática como base para los procesos de educación de medios democráticos entendimiento”.

Josef Seethaler es Director Adjunto del Instituto de Medios de Comunicación comparativo e Investigación de la Academia de Ciencias de Austria y la Universidad Alpen-Adria de Klagenfurt. Su investigación se centra en la comunicación política, la participación política, análisis del sistema de medios de comunicación, medios de comunicación y la historia de la comunicación, y la comunicación científica.

La calidad del contenido, la formación, la competencia mediática

Este es, sin duda, un paso adelante en comparación con la práctica anterior de financiación: después de todo, los términos “democracia” y “democráticos” no aparecen en absoluto en las directrices de la Fondo para la Promoción de Radiodifusión Comercial Privado. Pero lo que es un gran golpe de la política de medios esto habría sido si todos los medios de financiación en Austria habían sido colocados sobre una base democrática relevante: en la calidad de los contenidos, la formación de los profesionales de los medios y de la enseñanza de la competencia crítica de medios (por no hablar de una la reforma igualmente necesario de las normas de publicidad para el sector público). Esta demanda se planteó en numerosos estudios encargados por la Cancillería Federal de Austria o la Institución Reguladora de Austria (RTR). Esta posibilidad se ha perdido una vez más. Pero no sólo eso. Por otra parte, parece que el legislador austriaco ha olvidado las emisoras no comerciales, que están reguladas por la misma ley.

20 años después de la concesión de licencias de los primeros “radios libres” en Austria

Non-commercial private broadcasting in Austria has established itself as an institution in the media landscape – as the third pillar of the broadcasting landscape – alongside public and private commercial broadcasters. In recent years studies commissioned by RTR have shown on several occasions that they are an indispensable part of a pluralistic media landscape in the Austrian democracy. 14 free radios and three free television stations are currently operational all over Austria. Their activities are not profit-oriented, and they follow the principle of a programme without commercial product advertising. So, if advertising as media content is important to anyone, it will not be served by non-commercial broadcasting. It offers a different solution (underpinned by RTR studies):

– They offer individuals and civil society groups an open platform to freely express their opinions, concerns and interests.

– They promote civil society discourse, the willingness to engage in society and it promotes social cohesion. Diversity of opinion, social dialogue, equal rights and tolerance are not preached, but realised on a daily basis.

– They give a voice to social groups that are otherwise underrepresented in the public sphere and thus integrating them into social coexistence. Accessibility is not just a buzzword here.

– Non-commercial radios are proximity media and can respond to the information needs of local communities like hardly any other media in this context. In this way it sensitises the public to topics that are hardly represented in the mainstream media.

– Through this transparent and lively relationship between “media makers” and “audiences” (whose roles intertwine), they ultimately promote media competence as an ability to deal critically with media and their content

In English, the term “community media” is often used when it comes to non-profit media. This term hits the heart of the matter: the promotion of integrative and participative processes within and between local communities is at the centre of media work. The contribution this makes to strengthening identification with our democratic development cannot be overestimated.

Political disenchantment

A democracy based solely on elections and party representation (important as both are) is part of the problem of political disenchantment, not part of the solution. More and more young people want to participate in political processes. The “Fridays for Future” movement is an expression of this, but only one of many. This participation, as political scientists like Colin Crouch (“post-democracy”) show, will be feasible above all in the local space: in our own living environment, whose advantages and problems we know. If we experience democracy there, we will have confidence in it. Let us strengthen the role of non-commercial media! They currently receive only one fifth (!) of the funding for commercial broadcasting in Austria. An increase in this already low amount is paramount in terms of democratic policy. Media policy action is called for in order to make appropriate changes to the government bill before the National Council takes its decision.