National Council: “Objectivity and Information on ORF Instead of Compulsory Tax” (PK0061/January 31, 2024)

Vienna (PK) – A lively debate on public broadcasting broke out in the National Council today, with the FPÖ proposing “objectivity and information instead of the ORF tax, ORF Pickwick salary and teaching” as the topic of the current hour. Club president Kickl spoke of a “very fitting start” to this year's “super election year”, especially as the government gave people a “compulsory tax as a New Year's gift” with the introduction of a new house tax. With the arrival of a liberal head of government, this will be abolished, Gigl promised, because “this country will finally be governed for its own people again.”

Minister Susanne Raab told the FPÖ club president that public broadcasting would only exist if there was funding. The restructuring of the GIS fee is based on the decision of the Constitutional Court and now 3.2 million people will be significantly relieved. In addition, ORF is obligated to save up to €325 million over the next few years.

Giggling to cancel house tax and resume ORF

FPÖ club leader Herbert Kickel strongly criticized the ORF budget levy, which was intended to “regroup people affected by high prices” and to fund “the unity party's propaganda arm”. Households and companies will now receive bills of between €184 and €240, regardless of whether they use the plans or not. Young people in particular will be heavily burdened by this “huge penalty”. Additionally, it will reward “underperformers in the ORF that are in red despite the benefits.” Giggling has missed “objectivity and independence” at ORF, which is why – like the government – a fresh start is needed.

Giggle pointed out that the budget resolution resolution is one of many important decisions coming up in 2024. However, this decision cannot be made by political strategists, behind-the-scenes political networks, “opinionists, usually pollsters”, and political actors who masquerade as “journalists” and misuse public broadcasting for “propaganda against the FPÖ”. , or not the federal president, but millions of eligible voters. And then a good time will begin, and the Freedom Party will ensure that, said Giggle.

Raab is committed to public broadcasting and sees to it that proper reform measures are taken

Union Minister Susanne Raab said there is no European country without public broadcasting. So she asked Giggle to “tell the truth.” Because if you don't want to fund ORF, it doesn't exist. 90% of the population utilizes the various benefits of public broadcasting that represents an added value for democracy. Apparently, the Freedom Party also rejects private media, Raab suspects, because they have spoken out against both promoting quality journalism and supporting digital transformations. The Freedom Party countered by saying the new ORF law would cover about 3.2 million people “all of whom have so far duly paid GIS fees”. He also agreed that public broadcasting must become leaner and cheaper. Savings of up to €325 million are expected over the next few years. Digital offerings should be further promoted and a special children's offering should be created to better reach out especially to the youth. Because it is clear to them that the ORF is not for nothing and that it needs to become more transparent. Hence, there is no more room for the “excessive concessions that have crept in for decades”. All of this started with legal changes, Raab stressed.

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The ÖVP stands for Financial Protection for Media Diversity and defends the budget levy model

As with the corona issue, ÖVP MP Kurt Egger said that the FPÖ also relies on a strategy of “divisive, inciting, slandering and polarizing” at ORF. But he is adamant that people will not be fooled, especially those who can still vividly remember when the Freedom Party first called for a lockdown. People have also not forgotten that under Home Minister Giglin, more asylum applications were received. Today's debate makes it clear that the FPÖ does not want quality journalism or media diversity, but instead relies on “fake news, echo chambers and FPÖ TV”. His Parliamentary Committee colleague Stephen Hindner recalled the background to essentially eliminating the GIS fee and supported the budget levy model, which ensures greater fairness. The additional savings package also ensures that ORF will operate economically and transparently in the future.

Green: FPÖ wants to turn ORF into “state radio” following the Hungarian model

Club leader Sigrid Maurer (Greens) said the FPÖ does not care about freedom of expression, but rather that all media should represent “free opinions”. The FPÖ was based on the “announced Orbán model”, who turned public broadcasting into a state broadcaster and virtually abolished freedom of expression. This is evidenced by the fact that the FPÖ often despises independent journalists and accuses the ORF of indoctrination. Maurer stressed that free reporting is one of the central pillars of democracy and must be protected. By contrast, taxpayer-funded FPÖ TV spreads “unfiltered, questionable myths about horse deworming or Putin's war propaganda.” That is why the FPÖ is in favor of funding the ORF from the budget, as it will allow it to exert more pressure. As a result, a lot of content disappears and undesirable employees are removed. Maurer explained that a solution was chosen that would not only be less burdensome for each family, but would also ensure existing exemption options, as far as the necessary repairs to the GIS fee are concerned. Most Austrians are positive about switching to a household tax, continued Eva Blimlinger (Greens), “because it's cheaper”.

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SPÖ: Media freedom and liberal democracy must be protected

It's not the job of journalists to please politicians, and one “shouldn't be so vulnerable,” said SPÖ club president Philipp Kucher in the direction of the gig. We still don't know exactly how the Liberal Party envisions media policy. He could understand why people wanted to avoid important questions because of the “swamp” in the party, and “liberal democracy is practiced every day” to be interviewed on “FPÖ-TV”. Kucher warned against threatening to put people on wanted lists or humiliating journalists, as there is a risk of a situation similar to that in Hungary. There, public broadcasting is increasingly controlled and private media are bought off.

SPÖ MP Muna Dustar said that it was surprising that the FPÖ did not abandon its enemy figures. First minorities, then artists, now journalists. But the problem is not these groups, but the worldview of the Freedom Party, which does not accept any dissent or a democratic culture of debate. According to Duzdar, ORF is the biggest customer of the domestic music scene and the Austrian film industry. No one is saying there is nothing to criticize about ORF. For example, in contrast to the FPÖ, the SPÖ has always advocated the abolition of multiple chain agreements.

NEOS still sees an unwillingness to reform in the government

NEOS club president Beate Meinl-Reisinger identified a “massive loss of trust” in politicians, parties, democratic institutions and the media. More than three-quarters of the population also feel that parties “broadcast” too much on ORF. Meinl-Reisinger said this finding can be confirmed by looking at side letters, chats, circles of friends and non-transparent employees known in recent decades. The changes that have been made now are less due to a desire for reform in government, but rather due to the Constitutional Court's finding that party political influence in the ORF and the existing funding model have been criticized. Although parts of the legislation are supported by their party, NEOS still lacks “proper press support”. Likewise, a “compulsory tax” should not be introduced, especially during periods of high inflation. NEOS MP Henrik Brandstätter complained that little had been done about the committee structure, and that there was even less transparency and that the ORF was failing to comply.

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FPÖ: The ORF should act as a reflection of society and economically

MP Christian Hafeneker (FPÖ) said the FPÖ never said “public broadcasting should go”. However, people always demand that we first define what public broadcasting can do. His party view is that ORF should be a reflection of society. Unfortunately, it's a “leftist echo chamber” at the moment, Hafenecker says, where some people pass the ball to each other. There can be no question of thrift when an ORF alarm clock maker earns more than the Federal President. As ORF does not meet its legal requirements, more free market economics should flow into the media market, argued MP Susanne Fürst (FPÖ). It is always good when companies have to face free competition. He identified “left-green indoctrination” in ORF, of which there are many verifiable examples. (Continuation of National Council) Case

Note: Meetings of the National Council and Federal Council can also be followed via live stream and are available as video-on-demand at the Parliamentary Media Library.

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