Police TV: Marketing ploy or a move to greater transparency?

Police TV: Marketing ploy or a move to greater transparency?
The Vienna police have their own TV team. Photo: ORF
The Vienna police have been criticised for posting a video on their new YouTube channel about their preparation for the controversial Akademikerball on Friday, which attracted some 2,000 left-wing demonstrators.

Some media experts have said it is merely a marketing ploy to improve the image of the police and not a desire for “greater transparency”. Police chiefs have said it’s a “journalistic” way of documenting the work they do.

The yearly Akademikerball takes place in the Hofburg palace and is organised by the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPÖ). It's a known gathering place for Austrian and German nationalist student fraternity members, some of whom are described as right-wing extremists.

The seven minute video which documents the police's preparation for the ball has been professionally edited, with a dramatic soundtrack. The faces of protesters and members of the public have been pixelated in any close-ups.

Police chief Gerhard Pürstl explains in the video that the large-scale deployment – 2,800 police officers were drafted in from six provinces – was necessary to ensure that the organisers were able to hold the ball and that the protesters could voice their opinions in a climate that allows a “common coexistence in the city”. He said the video was made to “ensure transparency” and “show how the police work”.

Asked about data protection issues which might arise when filming members of the public, police spokesman Christoph Pölzl said that “the goal of police TV is not to expose people who would rather not be filmed”. However, he said that anyone who takes part in public demonstrations or large gatherings should be prepared for the fact that they might be filmed, “although we avoid taking close-ups”, he added.

Every film made for the YouTube channel is checked by Gerhard Pürstl before being published online.