TV tax increase ahead

TV consumers in Austria must pay higher taxes from Friday.

The ORF licence fee increases by seven per cent as of 1 June. The rise was agreed on last November when ORF general director Alexander Wrabetz justified it as “moderate”. Political decision-makers and telecommunications regulation authority KommAustria gave the go-ahead to the disputed tax hike.

The amount of the charge varies depending on where TV and radio consumers reside. Styrians are obliged to fork out 25.18 Euros from June. People living in Vorarlberg and Upper Austria with radio and TV systems must brace for a rise from 18.61 to 19.78 Euros.

The Styrian government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and People’s Party (ÖVP) issue the highest provincial fee as part of the ORF tax while such charges do not exist in Vorarlberg, which is situated in western Austria, and Upper Austria.

All households with TV sets are affected by the tax hike – regardless of whether they tune in to ORF’s programme. Residents of Burgenland in eastern Austria will pay comparably low ORF taxes from next month (22.48 Euros instead of 21.11 Euros) while people living in capital Vienna have to accept an increase to 24.88 Euros.

Austrians who have only radios but no televisions are charged less than those with TV sets. The ORF controversially asks people with access to the internet but no TVs to cough up the tax too since they can listen to its music programme via live streams and watch ORF shows on demand online.

The Kurier disclosed that every Austrian household could soon be affected by a tax which the ORF would benefit from. The newspaper reported yesterday that a group assigned to reform the ORF’s structure was looking into the issue.

A spokeswoman for SPÖ Media Secretary Josef Ostermayer confirmed that the topic was one of the many the committee was currently working on. But she also underlined that it had no priority. A similar charge – heaved on every home regardless of whether there people own televisions or radios – is in effect in several countries across Europe.

ORF chiefs hope for additional revenue of 20 million Euros this year thanks to the tax increase, according to the Kurier. The newspaper claimed that the rise could lead to extra earnings of the broadcaster of more than 35 million Euros from 2013.

The ORF, which is headed by Wrabetz since 2006, runs four nationwide TV channels. ORF 1 has a market share of around 16 per cent while ORF 2 attracts 22 per cent of viewers on average. Culture and politics channel ORF III has an audience of 0.7 per cent. Sports channel ORF Sport Plus’ market shares are similar to the ones of ORF III. Ö3 is the ORF’s most popular radio station. The mainstream pop and rock music channel has more listeners than any of its private rivals.