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Austria: Federal government urgently needs to propose new funding model for Wiener Zeitung

The world’s oldest daily newspaper still in publication, Austria’s Wiener Zeitung, is facing possible closure of its print edition as the government’s plans to remove mandatory public advertisements of companies have become clearer.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its Austrian affiliates, the Austrian Press Union (GPA) and younion – The Community Trade Union, in urging the federal government to propose an alternative plan to finance Wiener Zeitung in order to avoid job losses and further deterioration of media pluralism.

The plans announced by the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and Greens coalition are by no means new. The mandatory public advertisements of companies in Wiener Zeitung’s official gazette have been discussed and criticised for some time. Such advertisements include announcements of companies’ establishments or terminations, the publication of annual financial statements or invitations to general meetings. Now, with the implementation of the EU directive – expected to come into force in January 2022– on the “use of digital tools and procedures in company law”, the state-owned newspaper would lose this income, which constitutes three quarters of the funding for its print version.

Such substantial removal would leave the historical Wiener Zeitung without a sustainable funding model. So far, the government only alluded to plans to create a “new business model for the Wiener Zeitung with the aim of maintaining the brand”. However, details of how this massive loss of revenue should be compensated for have not been disclosed. The continuation of the print version is impossible without compensation.

Nik Williams