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The Austrian press operates freely under the constitution of 1920, which guarantees all citizens freedom of expression in speech, writing, and print. The constitution also forbids any government censorship of the press or electronic media. Austria has a well-developed system of print and electronic media that provides its citizens with a wide variety of news sources and entertainment.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The Austrian newspaper market is one of the most concentrated in Europe. Three dailies, the Neue Kronen-Zeitung, Täglich Alles, and Kurier, account for more than half of the newspapers sold in the country. By 1993 their daily circulations were 1.1 million, 500,000, and 390,000, respectively, with higher circulations on Sundays. All three specialize in tabloid-style journalism, with a tendency toward sensationalism. Better educated Austrians, especially in the larger cities, read either Die Presse or Der Standard, both high-quality newspapers published in Vienna with circulations of less than 100,000.

As of the early 1990s, a total of seventeen daily newspapers were published in Austria, and thirteen regional editions of some of these papers were published. Since the early 1970s, the importance of political party newspapers has declined precipitously. The SPÖ publishes one newspaper and the ÖVP two, all of which have circulations of less than 100,000. The SPÖ's venerable newspaper, Arbeiterzeitung, established in 1895, was sold to private interests in the late 1980s when the party decided it no longer wished to cover the newspaper's massive losses.

Austria also has many periodicals and magazines. Among the weekly periodicals, Profil, with a circulation of more than 100,000 in 1993, has emerged as one of the best practitioners of investigative journalism in the country. Another weekly magazine, News, has a circulation of more than 200,000, although it was only founded in October 1992. Other periodicals of note include Wochenpresse, a weekly; Trend, a monthly journal devoted to economic news; and Wiener, a monthly.

Rising concern over financial difficulties faced by small publishers led the Austrian government to decide in 1975 that subsidies should be made available to newspapers and magazines meeting certain criteria. For a daily newspaper to receive government funds, it must have a minimum circulation of 10,000 and regional distribution. Weekly newspapers are required to have a minimum circulation of 5,000. Magazines are eligible for funds if they publish between four and forty issues a year. To be considered for funding, a newspaper or magazine must file a formal application with the government. Specific allocations are decided on a case-by-case basis, and various formulas are used to spread the funds among a large number of publications. No single newspaper can receive more than 5 percent of the total budget earmarked for support of the daily press.

In 1982 Austria brought its press laws up to date with the passage of the Federal Law on the Press and Other Journalistic Media, which clarifies the rights of individuals to sue for damages when they believe they have been slandered or defamed by the press. The law establishes maximum amounts of S50,000 for defamation of character and S100,000 for slander. The law stipulates that damages are not to be awarded if it can be shown that the public interest was served by the publication of the material or of allegations in dispute. The law also grants individuals and corporations the right to respond in print to published reports they regard as defamatory. However, a newspaper can refuse to publish a rejoinder if it can prove that the report is not factual. Individuals and corporations may respond only to factual reporting; articles containing editorial opinions and value judgments are not covered by this provision of the press law.

Other provisions of the 1982 law strengthened the rights of journalists. Journalists are guaranteed the right to refuse to collaborate in assignments they regard as incompatible with their ethical convictions. The law also affirms the right of journalists not to divulge their sources in a court of law. The law further states that the government may not place the communications facilities of an organ of the press under surveillance unless it has reason to believe that a crime carrying a sentence of at least ten years may have been committed.

Data as of December 1993

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