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ORF staff fear cutbacks

ORF works committee leaders have warned that a relocation of the headquarters would mean a workforce level reduction.

Works council head Robert Ziegler said he was concerned that the ORF board could cut "up to 100 jobs" if the broadcaster moved from Vienna-Hietzing to new headquarter offices in the district of Landstraße. There have been rumours for months that ORF general director Alexander Wrabetz is in favour of building a new main office in the media quarter of St. Marx in Vienna-Landstraße.

The station’s executive board is currently debating the various future options. Renovating the current Küniglberg headquarters appears to be an alternative while managers, employees and politicians debate the possible costs of the various options.

Ziegler criticised Wrabetz – who has headed the ORF since 2006 – for failing to make clear whether he preferred a move to St. Marx. The ORF works councillor said the ORF should not give up its Ö1 radio headquarters in Vienna-Wieden. Employees’ representatives also appealed to the ORF head to abstain from carrying out changes regarding the offices of Ö3 and the Teletext service staff. Ö3 is Austria’s most popular radio station. The channel has its headquarters in Vienna-Döbling. The ORF’s Teletext videotext service is situated in the same building.

The city of Vienna encouraged the ORF to move to St. Marx. Especially the Viennese Social Democrats (SPÖ) consider this option as the best for the city and the broadcasting corporation. Hannes Rauch, the general secretary of the federal People’s Party (ÖVP), made clear that his party wanted the ORF to stay in Vienna-Hietzing. Rauch appealed to the station’s bosses not to forget their promise to remain on an austerity path in the coming years.

A final decision on whether the ORF – which is confronted with declining market shares – will relocate or focus on renovating its current headquarters is expected for June. ORF works committee leaders explained their main goal was avoiding a reduction of employee figures as part of a relocation. They also issued another appeal to politicians to stop trying to interfere with ORF-internal decision-making processes.

Richard Grasl, the state-funded station’s financial director, explained that the ORF had to reduce its annual costs by 60 million Euros by 2016. The former editor in chief of the ORF’s Lower Austrian affiliate said he was certain that the ORF would be able to finance innovative programmes in the future regardless of the planned spending cuts.

ORF’s ORF 1 channel claimed a market share of 15.8 per cent last month, up by 0.8 per cent compared to March 2011. ORF 2 suffered a decline of 2.6 per cent to 22.1 per cent at the same time. Private rival Puls 4’s market share grew from 2.5 per cent in March 2011 to 2.9 per cent in the same month of this year. Austria’s national broadcaster and its private competitors are challenged by steadily popular international cable and satellite TV stations. All channels are also pressurised by the rising interest in independent internet programmes, online video platforms and similar offers accessible via smartphone and computer.

Vienna Times

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