Public value test: KommAustria rejects ORF plans for exclusive YouTube channel

posted on 14 May, 2018   (public)

Exclusive presence of ORF on YouTube means discrimination against other platforms and weakening of existing ORF TVthek

ORF plans to set up its own channel on the online video platform YouTube and to set up the commercial online video library "Flimmit", which it owns via subsidiaries, as a public service partially financed by the licence fee, have been rejected by the broadcasting regulatory authority KommAustria.

In the first case, ORF had applied for permission to expand its social media offering by setting up a YouTube channel. Among other things, the YouTube channel was to offer programmes that cannot be made available for more than seven days on ORF's own Catch-up platform "ORF TVthek" due to legal restrictions.

  • In its decision to reject the application, KommAustria does not deny that ORF's presence in social media, - including on YouTube - may effectively contribute to the fulfilment of its core public service mission as it may increase the findability of public media content.
  • However, the authority considers that an exclusive cooperation between ORF and YouTube would discriminate against other, comparable companies and would thus not be in compliance with  ORF Law.
  • In addition, KommAustria must take into account the existing public service offer when approving new ORF services. KommAustria considered that the setting up of an ORF channel on YouTube would be detrimental to the existing "ORF TVthek".

In the second case, ORF had submitted a proposal to KommAustria for a public service with a focus on fiction (film and series), whereby ORF would like to introduce a fee-financed, subcription service for the first time. 95 % of the content of this online video library would consist of programmes already broadcast on ORF TV or planned to be broadcast there in the future. The offer was to be supplemented to 5 % from external productions. The financing would consist of subscription fees, fees from individual calls and the ORF programme fee. In order to make the latter possible, the online video library "Flimmit", previously in deficit and owned by subsidiaries of ORF, was to be converted into a public service.

  • The KommAustria decision stated that in principle, ORF is not 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 was not provided by ORF. As it was not clear for KommAustria  how ORF intended to ensure the  criterion of economic viability with the proposed financing concept, the regulator came to the conclusion that the application should be rejected.
Source: Website of RtR/KommAustria