As described in chapter 2.5.4, the official language in Austria is German. Croatian, Hungarian, Slovene and the Austrian sign language are recognised as minority languages and as regional official languages they are protected by the Ethnic Groups Act (Volksgruppengesetz).
The Broadcasting Act (2001) stipulates that the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation is obliged to ensure that “all aspects of democratic life are to be understood by the public” (§ 10), and an appropriate share of their programming has to be broadcast in the language of ethnic minorities. Although there is regulatory support for programmes broadcast in the languages of ethnic minorities, the article is general and the management can apply it “as appropriate”, which means without obligation (§ 4). The third radio programme is required to broadcast mainly in a foreign language (English).
Since the start of the Private Broadcasting Act in 1998, many small (non-commercial) free radio stations have been founded and currently provide programmes for (national) minorities and immigrants – e.g. Radio Orange (free radio Vienna), Radio OP, a multilingual students radio station in Burgenlandand radio Korotan / Radio Agora (the two Slovenian radio stations in Carinthia). Until 2001, such broadcasts were supported by the federal government. Since then, these free radio stations have been continually struggling. In 2009, a fund for the promotion of non-commercial private broadcasting at the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator Rundfunk- und Telekom Regulierungs GmbH (RTR) has been established with an annual budget of EUR 3 million. The purpose of the grants is to promote the non-commercial radio stations within the dual broadcasting system in Austria and to help broadcasters deliver diverse and high-quality programmes.
The first Austrian Community TV channel (“Okto TV”) started in 2005. This open-channel TV programme is supported by the City of Vienna and provides space for programmes in languages other than German. With DORF, a further free, user-generated television broadcaster was established in 2010 in Upper Austria, which is funded by Linz City Council, the province of Upper Austria and the fund for the promotion of non-commercial private broadcasting (see chapter 4.2.6).