Hungarian Government statement
The CEO of ORF in Austria (Alexander Wrabetz ever since 2008) is elected also by way of a nomination based procedure, without tendering; where party nominated members of ORF's Foundation Council have the authority to make a nomination.
In Austria, 6 members of the Stiftungsrat (Curatorium) are appointed by the Federal Government based on the recommendation of parliamentary parties, by taking into consideration power relations within Parliament, whereas 9 members are delegated by the federal states, 9 members are delegated by the Government, 6 members are delegated by the Viewers' Council (an NGOs delegated body of 35 members allocated to the country's public service media company), whereas 5 members are delegated by the Works Council. The Curatorium elects its own president and vice president from among its own members.41
Expert assessment: appointing directors of public media
The description of the election of the director of ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk) is essentially accurate, and it illustrates a common problem with regulatory bodies and the governance of public service broadcasting across Europe: each government aims to appoint individuals more "friendly" to its policies. However, the Austrian system attempts to reduce the impact of governmental appointments with a multilevel system of internal governance and by allowing civil society to nominate members of the Foundation Council. This means that the Foundation Council or Stiftungsrat—which is like the body once known as the "Kuratorium" in the Audiovisual Law of 1974—is not constructed purely along party lines.
The Foundation Council is responsible for ORF's budget and other legal obligations but has no remit over programming decisions. The Council has a general director who nominates directors and land directors from each of Austria's nine federal lands ("Laenders"). The Council has 35 members, serving four-year terms. According to ORF-Gesetz (the revised ORF Act), six members are appointed by the Government based on the proportionate strength of political parties in the National Assembly; after consultation, nine regional representatives are appointed from each of Austria's federal regions ("Laender"); nine are appointed by the Government; six are appointed by the Audience Council, a public advocacy group—of which three are elected and three come from groups concerned with religion, art and education; and five are appointed by the Central Works Council, which represents the employees of ORF.42 The six members who are nominated by political parties participate in the election of ORF's general director. On the basis of the general director's nomination, those six members also elect the directors of ORF's various broadcast outlets.43
The director of the Foundation Council holds the most powerful position in Austria's public media system and bears responsibility for all of ORF's activities. Because the director is nominated on the basis of the party composition of the Federal Assembly, the position is always somewhat politicised. Although ORF's independence is formally safeguarded by a multilevel system of governance, the Austrian political world and the public service broadcast system are entangled in a long history of close interaction, and political influence over ORF is informally accepted to a certain extent, which has been a detriment to its public perception as an independent public service broadcaster. The question of the Government's role in the appointment of ORF directors remains a central point of debate regarding the independence of the Austrian public service media system.
However, there are a set of mechanisms in place designed to ensure the accountability of ORF and to neutralise governmental influence. For instance, bodies like the Audience Council and the Public Value Review Board act to insert the viewers' point of view into discussions of what makes for appropriate public broadcasting. 44 The Audience Council is a body of viewers appointed by chambers of commerce, churches, educators and the academies of sciences. The functions of the Audience Council include making recommendations regarding the design and content of programmes and proposals for technical expansion, and approving decisions of the Foundation Council concerning the amount of radio and television fees. In addition, under the amended ORF Act, a new Public Review Board was established to submit feedback on ORF's services. The Board is required to evaluate whether new ORF services effectively fulfill ORF's public mandate and to assess the quality of programming diversity for viewers, listeners and users. The Review Board comprises five members, appointed by the Austrian Government for five-year terms. Members must be experts in the field of media law, media sciences or business administration and economics.
41 See "Criticism 9" in "Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a European context," Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010 available at: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-public-administration-and-justice/news/criticisms-and-answers-formulated-on-the-subject-of-the-proposed-media-act-examined-in-a-european-context.
42 Federal Act on the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF Act) Federal Law Gazette No. 379/1984 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No. 83/2001, available at: http://www.rtr.at/en/m/ORFG/orfg-eng.pdf.
43 Section 20 of the Federal Act on the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF Act) Federal Law Gazette No. 379/1984 as amended by Federal Law Gazette I No. 83/2001, http://www.rtr.at/en/m/ORFG/orfg-eng.pdf.
44 Under the amended ORF Act, the Public Value Review board was established within the Austrian Communications Authority (KommAustria); this group must be given the opportunity to submit comments and opinions on new ORF services in accordance with Article 6a of the ORF Act. http://www.rtr.at/en/m/PVBeirat.