Beyond Institutions

Opinion | Laurence Doering | February 2012

With their backroom politicking at the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) exposed, the nation’s politicians have shown scant remorse. According to Werner Faymann: "Parties having no say at all, that doesn’t exist in all of Europe!"

To see this as cynical would be to misunderstand Austrian political culture: There is little sense of an overarching "public interest", but rather the pursuit of compromise between interest groups. As such, the main alternative to the current ORF Council model being debated is to replace party representatives with representatives of professional associations (which, in fact, are also party affiliated).

So it’s essentially the same game with different players.

The BBC Trust – whose powers are roughly the same as the ORF Council’s – is made up of independent experts, chosen by the government and approved by a cross-party select committee. So, in liberal Britain erudite individuals, rather than parties, are seen as the guardians of the "public interest."

For the ORF to gain more "independence", therefore, more will be needed than shrewd institutional engineering; Austrians will have to question the prevailing political culture.

– LD

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