It was founded in 1703, during the time of the Habsburg Empire, and has survived the turmoil of history, but after years of uncertainty, the paper edition of the Viennese newspaper Wiener Zeitung will finally disappear.
The Austrian Parliament passed a media law on Thursday, April 27, including a clause signing the end, from July 1, of this daily newspaper among the oldest in the world, according to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). It will, however, continue to exist on the Internet, with the possibility of occasional print publications "depending on the funds available".
The newspaper, born under the name Wiennerisches Diarium, before being renamed in 1780, had been nationalized in the 19th century by François-Joseph 1er and currently belonged to the Republic of Austria. Apart from the purely editorial part which remained independent, it served since then as an official newspaper, publishing legal texts and information relating to Austrian companies.
Wiener Zeitung lived mainly on income from this activity but it will now be entrusted to an online platform, the government explaining that it acted under a European directive on digital tools. The editorial staff denounced before the vote a "destructive" project which deprived it of sufficient funds to continue printing the daily.
The 320-year-old brand will certainly survive, "but no one knows what the future of the publication will be: will it still be rigorous journalism," protests deputy editor Mathias Ziegler. "We have always said that other sources of funding should be found, but the problem has never been seriously addressed in the past," he told Agence France-Presse.
Nearly half of the 200 employees, including 40 journalists, could be fired, according to the union. Circulation currently stands at 20,000 copies on weekdays, a figure that doubles on weekends. Several hundred people took to the streets on Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to "save the paper." "Democracy needs quality media," read one banner, as Austria's tabloid press has been rocked by corruption scandals in recent months.
Asked by the APA news agency, European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova regretted the outcome, hailing "the useful role" played by Wiener Zeitung over the years.