The Österreichischer Rundfunk (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, ORF) is the biggest Austrian news and media provider. The history of the ORF goes back to 1924, when the RAVAG (Radio and Traffic Company) was founded in Vienna. In 1938 it was annexed by the Nazi-German Reichsrundfunkgesellschaft (later Großdeutscher Rundfunk), then being called Reichssender Wien. During the occupation following World War II (see Staatsvertrag for more details) each of the occupying forces broadcasted their own radio program. In 1954 members of the former broadcasting stations started to send first experimental TV programs, but these were very limited, especially because buying cameras was prohibited in all ocuppation zones. The first channel was started in 1955, and in 1958 the Österreichische Rundfunk Ges.m.b.H. was founded.
The Rundfunkgesetz (Broadcasting law), becoming effective in 1967, established the fee that every household that owns a TV has to pay to the ORF, as well as its education mission. Moreover the law constitutes that the ORF has to be ready to send important information given by the government at any time, especially during catastrophes or natural disasters, so a lot of the ORF's money is spent on emergency power supplies and the like (which is not necessary for private TV stations).
Since 1960, the ORF has been producing two channels, formerly known as FS1 and FS2 (can be translated as TV1 and TV2), later known as ORF1 and 2. The first program to be broadcasted in color was the New Year's concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969. While ORF1 is mainly about entertainment (the same sitcoms and series as on any other TV station) and kid's program, ORF2 is concentrating on news (the news show Zeit im Bild, which is quite objective, is sent seven times a day) as well as the Austrian country, sending a lot of films with a regional background from the 50s).
The monopoly of the ORF ended in 1993, when the Regionalradiogesetz was passed. Since then a bunch of regional private radio and TV stations (usually bound to one Bundesland) have been flooding the country.
Next to ORF1 and 2 the ORF is running several radio stations, namely:
- Ö1, specialized on classical music as well as news (especially politics)
- Ö2 is the umbrella term for the local radio stations of the Bundesländer, e.g. Radio Wien, Radio Burgenland..
- Ö3 is the most popular Austrian radio station with about 3 million listeners per day (Austria has 8 million inhabitants). The target group are people younger than 35 years, the same pop songs are played up and down all day long around the clock.
- FM4 is the youngest radio station, started in 1994. Half of the time the moderation is in English, news are broadcasted in German, English and French. Many different alternative music genres are played with a lot of specialized shows starting around 10PM. The lack of similar radio stations made FM4 quite popular in southern Germany too.
In 1997 the ORF started its website orf.at, which soon became the most visited Austrian website as well as Austria's central source for news.