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The Austrian Television Fund (FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA) - a major player in the German-speaking TV funding environment

“With an annual endowment of EUR 13.5 million available for the promotion of television film projects, the Austrian Television Fund (FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA) is the biggest promoting institution in the German-speaking world”, said Mr Alfred Grinschgl, managing director of RTR’s Media Division and person in charge of the fund’s management, stressing the significance of the fund. “This year alone we have supported 41 film projects with more than EUR 12 million. Experts tend to forget that in contrast to other promoting institutions, the Austrian Television Fund is exclusively government-financed, making it independent from television broadcasters in its grant approvals. By contrast, German TV broadcasters finance substantial parts of German promoting institutions.

Guidelines for grants: Television broadcasters’ ‘high-level complaining’

Since 1 January 2012, a revised version of the fund’s grant guidelines, which contain important provisions for TV producers applying for grants, has been in force. Even though television broadcasters and producers share the common goal of designing successful programs and are mutually dependent on each other, their interests diverge. “Of course our guidelines are fiercely criticised by television broadcasters: They want to invest less money in film projects but - in our view - want to claim more rights. From this perspective, one could say that they ‘complain on a high level’. What is overlooked is that we protect producers’ rights and even extended them, and that we can award grants for up to 30% of production budgets”, said Mr Grinschgl, commenting on the new provisions. Unlike in Germany, the promotion of television productions of the Austrian Television Fund (FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA) is awarded in the form of non-repayable subsidies and not in the form of conditionally repayable loans. For the producer this means that he or she doesn’t have to refund the grants even if the film brings in money.
In the last few weeks, the Austrian Television Fund (FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA) together with the review board and producers held many discussions with television broadcasters and agreed on a number of crucial points:
  • Primacy clause
  • First offer obligation and rules regarding the purchase of additional phases of use
  • Protection for producers against excessive utilisation restrictions

An issue that is still open is the involvement of distributing companies. Further talks are to follow in the near future.
In order to subject the new grant guidelines as well as the framework conditions to a scientific analysis, the Austrian Television Fund (FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA) has assigned Mr Oliver Castendyk (Hamburg) with the preparation of an expert report, which is planned to be presented to the public in autumn 2012.
Further information about the Austrian Television Fund (FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA) as well as about supported television film projects is available on RTR’s website at: