Creeping Message Control

Recent government moves appear to be aimed at restricting official data collection and distribution. The opposition sees this as unwarranted interference/meddling with public information

The Austrian government has announced plans for a major overhaul at Statistik Austria (SA, the Federal Statistics Office), putting it under the direct control of Sebastian Kurz’s Chancellery.  They may even fire Generaldirektor Dr. Konrad Pesendorfer, appointed by the previous but one Kanzler Werner Faymann (SPÖ).

The implications of these plans is profound: SA in Vienna collects and processes masses of data on many areas of economic and social activities, including politically sensitive areas like economic growth, income and debt levels, working hours and risk of poverty. And while the SA has been supervised by the Kanzler’s office since 2000, it has been considered auxiliary, deciding independently what to analyze and when to publish.

Now the so-called Reformgruppe in Kurz’s Chancellery has been charged directly with revising the Federal Statistics Act to set the course for a reorganization of the agency.

The restructuring proposals have unleashed “internal trench warfare,” according to the daily Der Standard.  Specifically: Commercial director Dr. Gabriela Petrovic is determined to carry out the reform, co-director Pesendorfer is dead set against.  The nominal reason is cost cutting and certainly Pesendorfer had enlarged his staff to expand SA’s coverage, running €187,000 over budget in 2018.  But as Der Standard pointed out, since Pesendorfer took over, the SA had often published socially critical analyses that sparked lively debates in the media and irritated the government.

With the reform, SA external communications will be coordinated by the Chancellery and the SA’s own press department is to be cut from eight to two people.  In other words, the government can preview the data and present it as it wishes. The effect is clear to the opposition: SPÖ’s spokesman Jörg Leichtfried told Die Presse: “Instrumentalizing Statistik Austria for Kanzler Kurz’ message control is unacceptable.”

At present the two co-directors – Petrovic the government enforcer and Pesendorfer the independent spirit – are at loggerheads. The final decision will come from the Aufsichtsrat (Supervisory Board), most of whose members are delegated by the Chancellery and the government ministries. Knowledge is power.

Julia Seidl
Julia started out at "Die Presse." She went on to study "Journalism & Media Management" in Vienna and worked for several local news outlets such as ORF, Kurier and Falter before joining Metropole as online content and social media manager.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


 

RECENT Articles

In Corona Time, So Few Sniffles!

A silver lining for COVID-19 has been how well we are preventing the common cold.

Vienna’s Ultimate Swimming Pool Guide

It will be a summer like no other. This year due to Corona, many Viennese will opt to spend a good part of their holiday in the city. Lucky for us, there are few better places for relaxing in the shade and swimming in pools or rivers than Vienna.

The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | School Vacations Started

With summer approaching, new challenges await Austria in dealing with the coronavirus. Here’s all you need to know about current measures and developments, including trusted sources and tips – regularly updated.

Liberal Freedom and Its Flip Side

The renewed struggle against discrimination is really two struggles: one about rights, the other about opinion.

Taste of India | Keep Calm and Curry On

Nestled in the 3rd district, The Taste of India’s second location serves authentic North Indian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere, balancing food and feeling.

Traditional Brand Icons and the New Sensitivities of Race

The worldwide Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has now spilled over onto the supermarket shelves. A look at Austria’s own racially problematic icons.
 

METROPOLE NEWSLETTER

Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.