Dr. Alexander Wrabetz: The film industry – economic factor and differentiating feature

Around 100 million euros for Austrian productions, eight million euros for Aus­­trian film, around 20 Austrian TV and film productions as well as 100 domestic series and sequel episodes every year on ORF: these figures alone show how seriously ORF as a public broadcaster takes its social role as the largest domestic film producer and employer in the film industry. With this, we provide a clear state­­ment to strengthen Austria as a film location every year. And with success: international prizes for works co-financed by ORF, such as an Oscar for Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “The Counterfeiters” and the Palme D’Or at Cannes for Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” emphasise the quality of Austrian filmmaking.

In terms of size, Austria’s film industry is comparable with that of Denmark, for example – however with one key difference: while the Danes produce films only for their own native lang­­uage area, Austrian produc­tion is part of the larger German language area. The domestic production industry is therefore subject to the same competitive environment as the German one, but without the refinancing options available to our neighbours. While we are producing for eight million Aus­trians, the Germans are producing for 82 million PLUS the eight million Aus­­trians, for the same money per minute of film. We there­­­fore have all the disadvantages of a large market, but are unable to make use of its advantages. Each year, the advertising windows of competing German broadcasters drain 350 million euros from Aus­­tria, without offering specific programming services for Austria.


Given this starting position, we are com­­mitted to genuine Austrian quality: this distinguishes us from the competition and generates sustainable public appeal – as our self-produced ORF cult crime series “Schell ermittelt” documents.

As a social broadcaster, we communicate Austria, which also helps to differentiate us from competing domestic broadcasters. Our aim is to tell stories with characters which could only take place this way in Aus­­tria. The Austrian identity is based on the culture, history, language, landscape – and even the weather, as for example in Alpine dramas. We make pro­­grammes for our audience, for people we respect. As a public broadcaster, we have a duty to all of Austria, and invest in the media quality of the future with every single production.
Needless to say, the commitment we display in films and series is also a contribution to maintaining and promoting Aus­tria as a business location. Our successful series “Der Winzerkönig” with Harald Krassnitzer is representative of this economic stimulation. During filming, investment was made over many months in the infrastructure of the Rust am Neu­­­siedlersee region: transport, catering, acco­m­­modation (for a large film production team over a long time), logistics, advice in questions regarding wine, search­ing for motifs – all this provides immediate invigoration for the region’s economy. The added value provided by the increased familiarity of the Eastern Austrian region abroad is one of the lasting effects of the series production by ORF.


As this example shows, ORF, as an integral part of the national economy and as a pro­­ducer, cultural provider and employer far beyond its purely journalistic function, always attempts to strengthen the business location and thus to provide some of the services which society rightly de­­mands of it: not only as a programming provider to reflect Austrian authenticity and support identity through the films and series it produces, but also to provide added value in terms of commitment to society as part of the corresponding structures. Thus ORF is the largest em­­ployer in the domestic creative and film industry. It thus creates and maintains thousands of jobs and is inseparably linked to the domestic economy and to Austria as a media location.

wrabetz1_2011_ok-KopieThe author (born in 1960) has a doctorate in law. Functions at companies including Girozentrale and Bank der Österreichischen Sparkassen were followed by positions at Österreichische Industrieholding AG (ÖIAG), voestalpine and the Vamed Group. In 1998, Dr. Wrabetz was appointed commercial director of ORF, and has been ORF general director since 2007. He was confirmed in office in 2011.