Hitradio Ö3 is one of the nationwide radio stations of Austria’s public broadcaster ORF. The format focuses on contemporary hit radio, specialising pop music and chart hits from the 1980s to the present. Ö3 has the biggest audience share by far (averaging 31%) of all Austrian radio stations.
The station was launched by the ORF broadcaster on 1 October 1967 to a new numbered system, together with the classical music station Österreich 1 and the local radios of the Ö2 group, following a 1964 national referendum against the alignment of the public broadcasting service on the Austrian political Proporz system. The journalist and radio host Ernst Grissemann was commissioned to build up an entertainment station; he was supported by Frank Elstner, who had worked for Radio Luxemburg, and André Heller presenting the Musicbox avant-garde music journal. Grissemann served as programme director until 1979, known as “Mister Ö3”.
A 24-hour programme was introduced in 1977, including hourly news broadcasts, weather forecasts, and traffic news in co-operation with the public ASFiNAG transport company. In the 1980s the popular Ö3-Wecker morning show was also aired by the German Sender Freies Berlin broadcaster.
Unlike the present-day format radio programme, the Ö3 schedules initially comprised alternative genres and many specialist music shows, with radio hosts like the cabaret artists Gerhard Bronner and Stermann & Grissemann, singer-songwriter Ludwig Hirsch or theatre director Axel Corti. While Schlager music was proscribed, the station played a vital role in promoting German-language Austropop tunes. Since a reorganization of ORF’s radio channels in 1996, shortly before the introduction in Austria of private commercial radio, ambitious programmes have been moved to Österreich 1 or the newly established FM4 young-adult radio station.
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