Future budget levy and major campaign topic in the ORF Foundation Board

Future budget levy and major campaign topic in the ORF Foundation Board

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At the upcoming meeting on Thursday, they will be interested in whether the changeover will go smoothly and what means new payers should be addressed. A major campaign that underpins “ORF for everyone” is in the pipeline. The change from the current GIS fee linked to televisions and radios to a device-independent household fee will take place on January 1st and for many people will mean a reduction in the amount from 18.59 euros to 15.30 euros. Others who previously only used ORF online or not at all will be asked to pay in the future. ORF boss Roland Weißmann has recently repeatedly emphasized that the “ORF is there for everyone”. A major campaign is also being worked on under this slogan, which will be rolled out in the fall.

“Central challenge for the coming months”

“It is appropriate for the ORF to provide information about this change and at the same time define its claim for its own work – namely to be an ORF for everyone,” said Thomas Zach, head of the ÖVP “Circle of Friends” on the board of trustees. An important aspect is to meet the highest journalistic demands placed on the ORF. The board of trustees sees the switch to the ORF contribution as a “very central challenge for the coming months”. “The company depends on it functioning well right from the start. From today’s perspective, it appears to be very well prepared by management. We therefore expect a smooth transition,” says Zach.

Heinz Lederer, head of the SPÖ “Circle of Friends” on the ORF Foundation Board, spoke of a “very clever, very balanced” campaign. It is important not to run an advertising campaign in the classic sense, but rather to try to explain what qualities the ORF has. Therefore, a headline is not enough. The public media company has to think about what it can do to take new payers “on the journey of an exciting, informative ORF,” said Lederer. “We need new formats in the information, talk and entertainment sectors that show how broadly and comprehensively the ORF is anchored in everyday life,” demanded the board of trustees. He would also like to see a “real relaunch” at the ORF state studios. Because: “They are the most important bridges to the seers.”

FPÖ speaks of “greatest possible dissatisfaction”

Sigrid Pilz, who speaks for the Green “Friends’ Circle” on the board of trustees, considered the planned campaign to be “right”. “It makes it clear that the ORF is available to everyone. Everyone should feel invited not only to consume, but also to take part in the ORF,” she said, hoping for numerous participation offers. When switching to the ORF contribution, she advocates that, if possible, no major change is necessary for those who already pay the GIS fee. “I am convinced that we will manage the process well, as long as there are no political crossfires,” said Pilz. Traditionally, the FPÖ in particular rejects the ORF fees. The ORF board of trustees Niki Haas, sent by the FPÖ, spoke in the “Standard” about the “greatest possible dissatisfaction” with regard to the switch to a budget levy. He advocates a budget-financed ORF that is reduced to core tasks.

Economic situation tense

Another issue is an impending loss in the ORF’s 2023 annual financial statements. At the end of June, ORF boss Weißmann predicted around 17 million euros, which will be missing due to the advertising revenue situation. The amount has now shrunk by several million euros. “I am glad that management is continuing to work to close this gap as best as possible,” said Zach. He sees the budget for 2024 as being on the right track. But: “Despite the secure financing of fees, we have to deal with an extremely challenging economic situation next year. As before, every euro has to be turned over twice in order to have as many funds as possible for program design.” Lederer emphasized that one had to keep an eye on the ORF’s finances. “I will not support a savings program only at the expense of staff,” said the SPÖ “Friends Circle” leader. He sees some potential for savings in the production area.

The ORF ethics committee that was set up some time ago has not yet delivered any concrete results. “This has to happen faster. We have to show before the switch to the household levy that we are as transparent and economical as possible and that 99 percent of the ORF employees are occupied with the ORF and its viewers and not 50 percent with secondary employment,” said Lederer. The board of trustees is calling for “maximally rigid” guidelines for secondary employment. Aside from this, the ethics committee also deals with guidelines for the social media sector.

A fleet strategy for the radio sector is currently being developed. Discussions with the works council and editorial board on organizational instructions for the multimedia ORF newsroom with a new management structure are also progressing.

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