Schöber ignores market shares

Peter Schöber has said that market shares should be a negligible aspect for ORF III.

Schöber – who co-heads the new channel in cooperation with Helmut Kaiser – said: “Our programme attracts up to 400,000 people a day but, to be honest, I do not care about market shares a lot. (…) Quality should matter the most for us.”

ORF III started airing on 26 October 2011. The channel – which is funded by national broadcaster ORF – focuses on cultural programmes like opera performances, and documentaries about actors, countries and historical developments. However, the channel also offers live platform debates from Brussels, Belgium, where the European Commission is based.

Schöber and Kaiser caused a stir only a few weeks ago by calling on the ORF executive board to spend more on ORF III. They claimed the station was seriously underfunded. Schöber and Kaiser announced that an additional 1.5 million Euros were needed to keep screening high-quality contents.

ORF bosses decided last year to give ORF III an annual budget of 2.5 million Euros. Schöber and Kaiser did not elaborate on the detail reasons higher subsidies. Now Schöber told the Kurier: “We are a small station with an innovative team and innovative solutions. This costs money. (…) We are optimistic about getting the necessary funds.”

Schöber said 52 was the average age ORF III’s viewers. Speaking to the Kurier, he also revealed that the channel was currently doing best on Saturdays and Fridays as far as viewer figures were regarded. Asked for his opinion on media regulation authorities’ decision that programmes of ORF III must not be made aware of on other stations managed by the broadcaster, Schöber told the Kurier these restrictions were “nonsense”.

ORF 1 has a market share of around 16 per cent (ORF 2: 22 per cent; ORF III: 0.7 per cent). The ORF’s strongest Austrian private competitors, Puls 4 and ATV, reach around three to four per cent each. Every household with satellite and cable TV installations must pay a monthly charge of around 16 Euros to the ORF.

Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) said in a recent interview the whole concept of asking people with TV sets to pay the tax could be reformed as part of the planned restructure of the state-funded broadcaster. Spindelegger said the system might not be contemporary anymore.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann said the ORF’s Stiftungsrat – which has a function similar to a supervisory board – should only have 15 members. This would be a reduction of 20 compared to its current size. Many of the panel’s members are on excellent terms with the country’s leading parties. Many of the ORF’s reporters and the station’s works council have said that the Stiftungsrat must be totally independent from decision-makers.