Communications

   Austria’s first telegraph line began operation between Vienna and what was then the suburb of Floridsdorf in 1845. Two years later, the longest transmission line on the continent linked Vienna to Prague and Brno, now in the Czech Republic. The Vienna Private Telegraph Society laid out Austria’s initial telephone network in Austria in 1881. Working under government commission, the company had only 154 subscribers at the outset. Financial institutions such as the Creditanstalt Bankverein, the major railroad stations, several hotels, and the newspapers quickly bought the service. Public officials, the mayor of the city, even the police, took much longer. Overland telephone communication between Vienna and Brno went into operation in 1885. The first wireless transmission in Austria took place in 1904, but long distance facilities did not develop before World War I. By 1924, however, radio broadcasting was underway on a daily basis. Klagenfurt in Carinthia and Innsbruck in the Tyrol had their own transmitters by 1927; Salzburg and Linz in Upper Austria had such facilities after 1930. Short wave transmission started in 1929. The major Vienna sender of the Austrian Radio Communication Corporation (RAVAG) opened on the Bisemberg, just outside the city, in 1933.
   Austrian broadcasting was at first intellectually ambitious; stations were not only for the latest headlines and government reports, but for cultural and critical themes. Work by the composer Richard Wagner made up the first program sent over the RAVAG. Strict political neutrality was to be the rule in newscasts. The realization of such programming—relentlessly dry narrations of daily events and hour upon hour of light music played by small ensembles—was less than ideal.
   For all of its commitment to balance, the RAVAG played a central role in the deadly power struggle between Austria and Germany in the 1930s. The drama of the 1938 Anschluss came over Austrian airwaves on 11 March as Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg made his farewell address to his countrymen. The Nazis understood the uses of the new technology for spreading their message. On 18 March 1938, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels made 22,000 radios available to Austrian communities where residents did not have access to them. Content, however, was tightly controlled. On 30 August 1939, Austrians were forbidden to listen to “enemy broadcast stations,” a euphemism for foreign programming that the regime could not censor.
   Independent Austrian radio went into operation under the management of the Austrian Broadcasting System soon after World War II ended. The first Austrian television program went out from transmitters around Vienna, Linz, and Graz on 1 August 1955. By 1962, satellites were beaming Austrian television around the world. The country’s first color telecasts took place in 1965.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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