The tragicomedy surrounding the appointment of the editor-in-chief is just a symptom of the ORF’s illness – its dependence on (government) politics. However, this does not apply to the journalists in the country’s largest editorial team, but rather the order patterns of his supervision and thus also the board of directors appointed by them. The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has finally recognized this. So another ORF law must be created by April 1, 2025, although a new one will come into force in 2024.

The Supreme Court’s order punishes the media minister. Susanne Raab came within a whisker of failing to do her job instead of passing an exam well. The change to the household levy was already at the behest of the Constitutional Court. New rules for digitalization were overdue. The whole thing was designed to be so ORF-friendly that it increased the existential concerns of private competition.

However, this distortion of competition through legislation was neither a random product of inexperienced people nor a success of public lobbying, but rather a broad political consensus. Parties only have direct access to ORF. The ÖVP, SPÖ and now also the Greens strengthen him whenever possible. The FPÖ, on the other hand, has always felt underrepresented there and wants to weaken it. The Neos have never been on his shifters and are therefore the only constructive critics.

The Constitutional Court’s decision to make the appointment method for the foundation and public council more independent of the government still surprised the coalition. She hardly seems able to fulfill the order. Even with the last possible date for the National Council election in autumn 2024, there is actually barely six months left to get a law passed. It should protect the ORF and thus inevitably the media market more than just fulfilling the highest court order.

If this task remains for the next coalition, it will probably have a maximum of 100 days to pass a hasty-bottom law. If the FPÖ is part of this government, it will certainly be terrible for the ORF. If Herbert Kickl ends up in the opposition, current surveys show that his party could still be strong enough to prevent decisions of constitutional importance. So, for reasons of state, a new ORF law including fair framework conditions for private media is needed.

Turquoise Green’s democratic political achievements to date give no reason for optimism in this regard. Social pressure is needed like it was 60 years ago for the broadcast referendum.

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