© Foto: Weingartner

Importance of ORF in a Participatory Democracy

Melanie Sully, Global Partners Governance

All national media have to operate within the confines prescribed by the political system in which they operate. For example in Austria there is no livestreaming of parliamentary committees comparable with that of the UK parliament. Video clips suitable for the evening news are unavailable. Instead the public have to be content with second hand information fed and selected by the media. Since the committees are supposed to be the nerve centre of parliamentarism this is regrettable and television has to make do with the two or three plenary sessions per month. Inbetween the parliamentary magazine and news shows (Hohes Haus/ZIBs) can interview politicians and hunt around for stories with a special or topical angle. This can be complemented by talk shows and discussion evenings (ORF III, IM Zentrum) drawing attention to the burning issues in the country, Europe and on the World stage (ORF Radio/Journal). That more effort is being made to ensure diversity in guests and interviewees is a welcome trend. A gender balance is now recognised as an important part of a society aiming to be democratically inclusive.
In reporting the European Union, the media often has a thankless job. Those pro Europe will endorse a specific line whilst those sceptical are not likely to be swayed to the contrary by even more information on how the institutions work. Here again offering a participatory space such as via Twitter and online can provoke feedback. Often the latter can be more negative in character. It is easy to criticise but how could citizens be encouraged to offer positive solutions? Such programmes along the lines of “If I were a Minister, I would do.” could funnel the conversation more constructively. Whether during an election, EU Presidency or every day current affairs, the ORF can contribute to a modern democratic culture.