Re-claiming ORF

News | Vienna Review | February 2012

The Brazenness Before the Fall, 20 Jan.

by Bernhard Lichtenberger

Niko Pelinka threw in the towel, and his not-to-be boss Alexander Wrabetz waved the white flag of capitulation.

Of course, previously the ORF director general practiced the typically Austrian custom of "sitting it out", in the hope that resistance against his political horse-trading would ebb.

But Wrabetz ultimately pulled out the chair from under himself.


The Battle for ORF, 20 Jan.

by Michael Völker

The ORF itself emerges from this battle stronger; its director general, however, took a beating. He is the loser of this grotesque appointment-play.  He lost face, and must now fight for his credibility...

This is about political influence in an allegedly independent media organisation, which is owned by the Republic, and hence belongs to the citizens. This independence was not – and is not – respected by politicians...

Hence the staff’s victory over the potential office manager Pelinka should be respected all the more. There was no support from politics. None at all.

The notion that editorial freedom at ORF is greater than ever before is true. That can be put down to the ORF staff – which is not prepared to accept "business as usual" as being usual at all, and does not tolerate certain conditions simply because "they have always been that way".


The More Ridiculous the General, the More Independent the ORF, 20Jan

by Michael Fleischhacker

To sum up: The more the director general makes a fool of himself, the more independent is the ORF.

Perhaps that’s true, then one should include the principle in the amendment of the broadcasting law – which the heroic editors continue to demand. That would make it easier for the parties to agree on a candidate, and it would spare the company too many changes of leadership.


The Editors Revolt: An Example for ZDF, 19 Jan

by Dieter Wirtz

Not only for Austrian circumstances this is a remarkable testimony of a public broadcaster’s struggle for independence. Yes, Pelinka’s appointment illustrated conditions characteristic of a banana republic. But the staff restored the reputation of a mature democracy.

By comparison, the internal protest at ZDF (Germany’s public service broadcaster) against the political isolation of the former editor in chief, Nikolaus Brender, during the autumn two years ago was rather pitiful. The ORF editors staged a real insurrection.

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