I understand the need to collect revenue
I've just never understood the method; why use TV/Radio licences?.
Yes, yes, user pays and all that.
But why not just hit ALL tax payers with a fee along with their income tax?
Out of sight, and all.
An Austrian court has ruled that online radio streaming does not actually constitute “broadcasting”, and therefore listeners do not need to pay a licence fee. The Verwaltungsgerichtshof (Federal Administrative Court) ruled on Monday that computers with an internet connection, but without radio reception modules such as a TV …
The usual argument for that is that, if it's collected with general tax (or even hypothecated from it), then there is more of a concern that a government may be able to unduly influence a supposedly independent national broadcaster, as they're the ones in control of the flow of money.
However, I think that argument has less merit now than it used to, certainly in the UK, since the principle seems to have been established that government can make policy, and then effectively direct the BBC to fund it (eg rural broadband, welsh broadcasting, world service, free licences for the elderly).
It really doesn't matter what semantics you want to play over what constitutes a "broadcast", the over-riding principle should be that if you don't help fund the company, why should you have free access to their output? And you'd hope that Austrians who exploit this loophole appreciate that.
If this law isn't modified, all that's likely to happen is that the ORF simply put their programmes behind some sort of login that only licence payers can access to stream.
The court ruled that it is not illegal to own a computer and access the online version of the content without having paid the license.
The court did not rule that the broadcaster has to make the online content available to everyone, just that they couldn't prosecute against those who didn't have the license.
Unless required by law to provide the online content (which I'd be surprised at) then they can apply whatever access controls restrictions they like and as long as it isn't discriminatory then there is little the courts are likely to do.
online radio streaming does not actually constitute “broadcasting”,
Technically, streaming is rarely broadcasting. It's a more modern version of the stations (common still in USA in 1980s anyway) that you phone and listen to on a speaker. Actually "dialup" live programmes existed in Europe even before 1921 and dawn of Broadcasting.
So in practice it's a different way of delivering content. In Australia, originally, you got a licence for a station, but other countries you got a licence (originally for technical reasons and later merely a tax) to have Wireless equipment.
So in the sense that Streaming doesn't use Broadcast Wireless Equipment, you don't need a licence. If the licence was changed (as it is in Ireland) to be consumption of live broadcast by any alternative means (fibre, Cable, Internet) then, yes, streaming of anything other than back catalogue on demand, i.e. a "station" the same for everyone, logically ought to need a licence (a tax on consumption in reality).
Technically in Ireland using PC and internet to watch "live" BBC requires a TV licence. The Radio licence (like UK) abolished long ago.
To save money they turned off AM radio in Austria,
However if EVERYONE "listens" via Internet at same it might get as expensive as AM.
FM isn't as much coverage as AM. I don't know if Austria has dreadful DAB like UK and Germany, which has even worse coverage.
Unintended consequences. Is this really about Radio or TV? Do they seriously still collect Radio licence fees in Austria?
No, it is not *broadcast*. On the internet everything is either unicast or multicast, but not broadcast.
A broadcast transmission is one that everyone receives whether they do anything or not, e.g. If you are among people who are talking you will hear their speech regardless of whether you are listening or not, or whether you asked them to speak to you.
A unicast of multicast transmission does not even reach you unless you do something specific to request it. You can 'listen' as hard as you like; unless you *requested* the signal you will not receive it.
"Austrian court with jurisdiction only in Austria makes decision based on Austrian law regarding activities in Austria, that applies only to Austria."
...until the EU decides to "harmonise" the laws on broadcasting and receiving equipment licenses and based on past experience, whatever hurts the consumer the most, from whichever EU member, will be the one we all end up with. EU "haromisation" never relaxes laws or regulations,it always strengthens them.