back to article Austrian court rules online radio streaming is not broadcasting

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 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: I understand the need to collect revenue

      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).

    2. fridaynightsmoke

      Re: I understand the need to collect revenue

      Or why not have them sell advertising slots like every other form of media?

      Why is television considered such an essential service that people must be made to pay for it?

  2. Just Enough

    Just cos it's legal doesn't mean it's right

    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.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Just cos it's legal doesn't mean it's right

      That would be trying to the licence fee mandatory for accessing content via something other than broadcast, which was just clarified by the court. They would get taken to court again and the court would tell them to take the login off.

      1. Gergmchairy

        Re: Just cos it's legal doesn't mean it's right

        In that case there is no reason why they couldn't make the streamed content pay per view... Nowhere does it say it has to be available via the interweb.

      2. The Mole

        Re: Just cos it's legal doesn't mean it's right

        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.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Just cos it's legal doesn't mean it's right

          Could they make public content paid for by a TV licence PPV? I can see that ending up in court.

          Indeed they can apply whatever access controls they like which aren't discriminatory, apart from linking them to the TV licence.

  3. Mage

    Right and Wrong

    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.

  4. Mage

    Also ...

    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?

  5. Trollslayer

    Not RADIO broadcast

    But that doesn't mean it's not broadcast.

    1. etaion

      Re: Not RADIO broadcast

      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.

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse


    The requirement to buy a TVL doesn't currently apply in any form to listening to the radio over ANY transmission medium or format, so I'm not sure why the tagline on this article.

  7. JeffyPoooh

    "...€78 for radio..."

    "...on average €78 for radio..."

    OMG! Starts mentally counting number of radio receivers in house, stops counting at about 50... ...maybe half done. Likely well over 100.

    "...only one licence fee has to be paid per household regardless of the number of sets."


  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Listened to an Austrian FM radio stream at work

    No big deal you say.

    Audio streaming was blocked at my place of work in Australia. (The other Austria for our American friends)

    However, this particular Austrian station would always get through.

    Ist gut, ja?

  9. Andy 97

    PRS lawyers on standby....

    The gravy train has hit an antipodean landline.

    Saying that, the artists who worked hard to craft the music we all enjoy should get some cash.

    I spy lawyers getting very very large paydays soon.

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: PRS lawyers on standby....

      Err, that's Austria, not Australia...

  10. herman Silver badge

    For me, Antenna Vorarlberg always gets through.

  11. Graham Marsden

    Since when...

    ... did Austrian law apply in the UK?

  12. paulf

    Key point here is Austria

    Austrian court with jurisdiction only in Austria makes decision based on Austrian law regarding activities in Austria, that applies only to Austria.

    Yes, BBC this is all about you. Do something about it now!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Key point here is Austria

      "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.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like