Austria’s News in English: January 14 – 20

Welcome to the latest edition of MyExpatCommunity’s Austrian news feature! Here we’ll provide you with snippets of the most important Austrian news of the last couple of weeks so you can stay up to date.

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1. New ORF Law and Changes in Management in the Works

The Austrian government is currently creating a new ORF law (the public broadcasting company has its own legal text about its mandate, obligations, and rights which can be found here).

The main question at stake is still where the budget for the media services should come from, and for what exactly. Furthermore, the never-ending debate of who should be in charge of the ORF is on the table too, since political parties have always been interested in hiring people close to them. The current law plan is to present a proposition this summer and then proceed to a fast decision in the fall. New leadership should be in the office by the end of this year.

The change in ORF management might however not be the end of current director general Alexander Wrabetz, a Social Democrat. So far he has implemented previous demands and legal changes by the government and has proven himself to be an efficient manager of the complex ORF. Getting rid of him ahead of schedule would create a problematic image for the government. Also, another issue is money: Wrabetz’ contract states that he will receive a payment of about €420,000 per year until 2021, no matter if he is director general or not. The same goes for the other four ORF directors with a payment of about €300,000 per year.

A new law that was passed by the government states that the position of the general director – until now the sole director -will be split among four board members. Two mandates will be given to the FPÖ, two to the ÖVP. Wrabetz, therefore, might survive on an FPÖ ticket.

The main question concerning new law proposals is the money though. The GIS (ORF fees) currently amount to 630 Million Euro per year. This system of financing is not only crucial for the broadcasting company’s operating budget but especially its independence from political interference. A recent debate in the parliament showed that only SPÖ and Liste Jetzt are in favor of keeping the fees as they are, while the ÖVP didn’t settle on a recommendation, and the FPÖ wanted alternatives. Those alternatives usually mean that the money would be paid from the state budget, making the ORF dependent on the goodwill of the government.

The survival chances of the GIS are not too bad though. Even if there are cuts, the state budget currently couldn’t allocate 600 Million Euro from its own resources. A compromise might be the key to future changes here.

Source: Der Standard


2. Advisory Board of the Spanish Riding School resigns in protest

After giving several warnings against making Sonja Klima – ex-wife of former chancellor Viktor Klima – the new head of the Spanish Riding School, the advisory board has now announced its resignation. The board sees the appointment of Klima as based purely on politics, not merit. The board believes that Klima lacks the professional background to be the head of the Spanish Riding School. The advisory board supported another candidate, current employee Herwig Radnetter, who was ranked as the best candidate in a hearing. Klima was ranked 3rd in the same hearing.

The Ministry of Sustainability, who manages the Riding School, disagrees with the findings of the hearing and has stated that Sonja Klima is the ideal candidate with her experience in Marketing, Sales, Public Relations and Fundraising.

Source: Der Standard


3. Women’s Shelters disappointed in Protection against Violence Package

The Association of Autonomous Austrian Women’s Shelters has expressed its disappointment in the Protection against Violence package by the government. (The package includes stiffer penalties for repeat offenders, compulsory anti-violence programs for perpetrators, case conferences that involve victim protection organizations and the police and more financial resources for violence protection.) Amongst the points criticized by director Maria Rösslhumer is a new three-digit emergency phone number being introduced. The Association already maintains the women’s helpline (reachable under 0800/222-555). It is unclear if the new three-digit number will be re-directed to the existing helpline or if it would be a completely new offer, run by the government directly.

Further criticism was directed at the “ban mile” (offenders have to keep a distance of 50 meters to the victim at all times) for perpetrators, as there is no clear clarification on how this could be executed. Higher fines wouldn’t keep potential perps in check either. Rösslhumer would like to see the existing law be executed more strictly, as the conviction rate is dropping and women have less trust in the justice department.

Moving money from the work with women to the work with perpetrators is not welcomed by the association either. Rösslhumer recommends additional funding from another ministry. In regards to refugees being villainized as the main reason for the recent increase in violence, the stand of the association is not that foreigners are the problem, but the inequality of men and women in modern society. This inequality can be observed in various religions and cultures, even those dominant and present in Austria.

Source: Kleine Zeitung


4. Possible Weapon Ban at Praterstern and Danube Canal

Starting February, the promenade along the Danube Canal and the Praterstern might become a weapon free zone. The ban could last up to three months. The police haven’t decided yet on the exact geographic extent, but have promised to inform the public in time.

The reason for the ban is repeated dangerous attacks in combination with weapons in those areas. Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) has reinforced his demand for a weapon ban in all of Vienna this week.

Source: Die Presse


5. Austrian Representation at this Year’s Berlinale

The Austrian representation at the 69th Berlin Film Festival keeps growing. Director Marie Kreutzer is in the Competition for the Golden Bear with “Der Boden unter den Füßen”, plus the Forum will include the Elfriede Jelinek Project “Die Kinder der Toten” and Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s documentary “Erde”. The Forum is renowned for showing daring, unusual projects.

Another production co-produced by an Austrian director is the documentary essay “Heimat is ein Raum aus Zeit” by the German filmmaker Thomas Heise. The Berlinale will take place from February 7 to 17 in Berlin. The programme is available here.

Source: Salzburger Nachrichten

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