Austrian media authority KommAustria has rejected plans by public broadcaster ORF to set up its own YouTube channel.
ORF had applied for permission to add a YouTube channel to its social media activities. The channel should have mainly offered ORF programmes which, due to legal restrictions, can’t currently be made available for more than 7 days on ORF’s catch-up service ORF TVthek.
In its decision, KommAustria does not fundamentally oppose the use of social media platforms by ORF but argues that an exclusive cooperation between ORF and YouTube would discriminate against other, comparable companies.
The authority also has to take into account the existing public service offer when approving new ORF services. KommAustria identified a weakening of the existing ORF TVthek by setting up an ORF channel on YouTube. Moreover, the regulator argues that it might be possible to extend the general provision period of programmes on ORF TVthek beyond 7 days as part of a revision of the legal framework.
KommAustria also prohibited ORF from operating the commercial online video service Flimmit, which it owns via subsidiaries, as a public service and thus partly financed by the licence fee. ORF intended to turn Flimmit into an Austrian Netflix-type service, offering programmes that have already been broadcast on its TV channels or are intended for broadcasting.
The financing would have mainly consisted of subscription fees, payments for single programmes and the public licence fee. In order to make the latter possible, the online video store, which is still loss-making, should have been converted into a public service.
According to KommAustria, ORF is not in principle prohibited from offering a subscription service as part of its public service offer. In the present case, however, the legally required proof of the economic viability of the new offer has not been provided. In the financing concept for the new service it also remains “completely unclear” how large the share taken from the licence fee would be.
Both decisions are not yet legally binding as ORF can take court action against them.