Neue Zürcher Zeitung, September 30, 2007
A book on the situation in Austria
Two publishing houses publicly battling over the same object of desire is not an everyday affair. But if it happens, sparks fly. That is how is was in Springer vs. Burda, or later in Springer vs. Kirch. And that is also how is was, and still is, in today’s Austria in the struggle between the bull-headed Hans Dichand, publisher of the Kronen Zeitung, and its co-owner, the German WAZ-Group, which was originally persuaded by Dichand himself to buy into the paper.
In addition to describing the titans’ arm wrestling, the author Harald Fidler, media editor with the Standard, takes an unsparing look at the Austrian media’s inner workings and ownership structure, which he considers everything but normal. “In Austria, media concentration is much higher than in most other European countries, higher, in fact, than in most countries in the world”. Just consider the following: The Kronen Zeitung boasts a circulation of around 850’000 and reaches 43.8 percent of the Austrian population. One of the main players cementing Austria’s special situation is the giant publicly funded ORF, which is by far the country’s largest media outlet. According to Fidler, things there often work in mysterious ways. While other media firms outsource workers to cut costs, the ORF’s worker council succeeded last year in convincing management to convert the contracts of one thousand freelancers into permanent ones.
The book is essential reading for anybody interested in the Austrian media. It is both bold and scathing. But, as anecdotes abound, there are dry spells too.
Translation: Florian Faes
Harald Fidler: Im Vorhof der Schlacht. Österreichs alte Medienmonopole und neue Zeitungskriege. Falter-Verlag, Wien 2004.