The Digital Commissar Beats Even Erdogan …

Austria boasts of a state-owned TV broadcasting company (the ORF), that similar to a handful of other European relics from the era when only governments were allowed to broadcast exists not on the commercial merits of its programming, but on the basis of coercion. Every owner of a device in the country that could conceivably receive broadcasts from a state-owned TV or radio station is forced to pay a monthly fee to the company, which not surprisingly pays some of the heftiest salaries available in the country (we have been told that it is also nigh impossible to get a job there unless one “knows someone”).

 

gis-gebhr_1439303526864465Austria’s state-owned broadcaster even has a special subsidiary (GIS Ltd.), whose sole task consists of ensuring that all device owners are paying up!

Photo credit: Die Presse/Clemens Fabry

 

The impertinent demand for this compulsory fee is officially justified by the TV station’s important task of keeping the hoi-polloi informed about state-approved whatevers. As might be imagined, the company has come under pressure from the many private TV stations that have sprung up over time that can be viewed for free via satellite or cable (luckily governments all over Europe were eager to sell bandwidth/ licenses, etc., way back when). Then it came under even more pressure when the intertubes entered the scene – especially after the Constitutional Court told it that it could not, as its management had believed, also charge everyone who happened to own a device connected to the internet.

The day has only 24 hours, and anyone surfing the web is definitely not watching the state-owned TV station. This (presumably) caused one of its program directors, a certain Wolfgang Lorenz to remark during a debate over the “future of media” in 2008 that “today’s youth are uninterested in education and are crawling into the f****** internet to communicate” and that he actually wasn’t “f******* interested in what they watch”. Admittedly, if a TV program director’s salary depends on fees obtained by government coercion, he may in fact not be interested in what people watch, so we have to give him points for honesty. Be that as it may, ever since that time, there is the “Scheiss Internet Prize” (i.e., the f****** Internet Prize, officially referred to as the “Wolfgang Lorenz Memorial Prize for Internet-Free Minutes” or “WOLO” for short), which is awarded annually.

 

der-preisThe much-coveted WOLO trophy the proud winner of the award will soon call his. Here is the official web site of the prize committee.

Photo via esel.at

 

Among the many worthy nominees this year, there was inter alia Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom one would normally almost consider a shoe-in. After all, Mr. Erdoğan is known for incessantly whining about the internet, which he “increasingly dislikes and is against”. Why? Apparently too many uppity Turkish citizens are misusing it to hurl insults in his general direction. Erdoğan has attempted to actively legislate free expression on the interwebs into submission, particularly as embarrassing revelations about corruption in his party and of his government’s truly twisted, but now no longer secret, “foreign policy initiatives” emerged there.

According to Mr. Erdoğan, he “will not leave this nation at the mercy of Youtube and Facebook”. When he ordered Twitter to be intermittently switched off in Turkey, he credibly explained: “They came to me about this case of Twitter ignoring the case of a smeared house wife. I said, lets solve this!” A deserving nominee indeed.

 

erdoganThe always charming Mr. Erdoğan, prime minister of Turkey who is currently trying to become Turkey’s president, freshly invested with enormous new powers, in what might be called a Putinesque twist.

Photo via incicaps.com

 

There were many other worthy nominees this year, inter alia two Austrian politicians who bent over for the global content mafia and agreed to implement a kind of “pre-crime fee” that is charged on every storage medium sold in the country because it could potentially be used to store pirated content (they actually won the audience award). Another nominee worth mentioning is German publishing house Rommerskirchen, which tried to have the term “blogosphere” trademarked for itself (seriously).

However, none of them could beat a man we have introduced to readers a while back already – the EUSSR’s digital commissar Guenther Oettinger (who looks remarkably like an older version of Beavis). Oetti! He truly does deserve to win it. One of his very first ideas was to create “internet provider monopolies” in Europe, introducing a kind of digital Zwangswirtschaft that would enable providers to charge whatever they liked, as they would no longer have to fear competition. According to Oettinger, this would be “good for investment” (maybe the should make him economics commissar next time?). Next he mooted the “introduction of taxes and fees” to be used to pay off content creators – the very pre-crime fees that have actually been introduced in Austria in the meantime in what appears to be a case of anticipatory obedience. And that was just in his first week in office.

 

gunther-oettingerGuenther “I go online every day” Oettinger, the EU’s digital commissar, shortly after learning he has won the WOLO prize this year. Or maybe this photo was taken after he learned what his salary would be?

Photo credit: AFP

 

Conclusion

We congratulate the intertubes commissar for winning and beating out so many other worthy contenders.

 

 

 

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