Puls 4 outpaces ATV

ATV has been robbed of its standing as Austria’s most popular private TV station.

Puls 4 overtook its key rival for the first time in four years thanks to a market share of 3.2 per cent last month. ATV garnered a stake of three per cent, according to TV consumption research released yesterday (Thurs). ServusTV, a broadcaster funded by energy drink producer Red Bull, managed to claim a market share of one per cent in February 2012, up by 0.4 per cent compared to the same month of last year.

Latest analyses also show that state-funded broadcaster ORF’s main stations, ORF 1 and ORF 2, both sustained market share losses last month – despite a string of popular carnival season shows and live broadcasting from the tradition-rich Viennese Opera Ball. ORF boss Alexander Wrabetz informed the Stiftungsrat council yesterday that the company would suffer a loss of 16.5 million Euros by the end of this year if it kept operating under the current terms.

Wrabetz said his team would check ORF’s personnel costs for savings potential and made clear that freelance journalists working for the company’s radio station Ö1 could not expect significantly higher salaries in the foreseeable future. The reporters recently launched campaigns to make aware of their difficult working conditions.

The ORF chief also announced that the annual budget of ORF III would be upped by 500,000 Euros to three million despite the generally difficult economic circumstances. This statement comes shortly after ORF III co-chiefs Peter Schöber and Helmut Kaiser claimed that the channel – which went on air last October – was seriously underfunded. Schöber and Kaiser called for an additional 1.5 million Euros a year.

The programme of ORF III is dominated by cultural content, documentaries and political discussions. ORF bosses reportedly established the station in an attempt to justify laws which force Austrian TV consumers to pay fees regardless of whether they watch the ORF’s programmes. Every Austrian household with TV sets and radios must pay between 18 and 24 Euros a month.

University of Münster said earlier this week its check of Austrian stations’ programmes show that ORF 1 was dominated by entertainment features the most at 83 per cent, followed by Puls 4 at 50 per cent and ATV (45 per cent). The German higher education and research institution was asked by Austrian telecommunications and mobile services regulator RTR to investigate the matter.

The result sparked harsh criticism by the directors of Puls 4 and ATV who criticised ORF for charging fees despite an apparent focus on sitcoms and Hollywood movies. ORF officials have defended the federal fee regulations for decades by making aware of the broadcaster’s excellent news coverage.

Meanwhile, lawyers and ORF affiliate GIS are set to clash in court over the national broadcaster’s charging policy. GIS plans to crack down on internet users since they could listen to ORF’s radio channels on the web. Consumer rights watchdogs are expected to speak out against the plan. A Salzburg law office announced on Wednesday it considered taking the ORF to court for charging households with old televisions unfit to receive the ORF’s digitalised programmes.