Since its beginnings as the “Commission for Mass Communication History” in the 1990s, the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies (CMC) has become a nationally and internationally renowned hub for communication research. It looks at the evolution of Austrian media, as well as politically relevant public communication and its role in a democratic society, while also examining the requirements placed on civic duty, corporate responsibility and media policy. Its methodological focus is on comparative perspectives through a temporal and international lens, taking different types of media into account. In the spirit of the intellectual, cultural and sociological traditions that prevail in communication studies in Austria to this day, the institute is committed to an empirical approach to the social sciences that Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and his peers set in motion in the early 1930s, in Vienna.

The expertise the institute has gathered has informed the realms of politics and media, and has made it a sought-after project partner; “Worlds of Journalism”, “Mapping Media Accountability” and the European Union’s “Media Pluralism Monitor” are just three of the major international collaborations it has been a part of. On behalf of the Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungs-GmbH, the institute conducted the very first study of the democratic quality of Austrian media, which produced groundbreaking findings in science communication. In keeping with the scientific character of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the institute places special emphasis on longitudinal analyses (such as the analysis of Austrian election campaign communication since 1966) as well as the interdisciplinary applications that are inherent to media and communication studies (particularly in political science, psychology, law and economics). This interdisciplinary approach is also characteristic of the institute’s comprehensive event activities, which range from prestigious academic conferences to lecture series like the popular "Hedy Lamarr Lectures".

Since 2013, the CMC has been operated in cooperation with the University of Klagenfurt, a collaboration that promotes the Humboldtian model by integrating research findings into education.

Gabriele Melischek and Josef Seethaler provide a comprehensive history of the institute in their article Die Institutionalisierung der Kommunikationswissenschaft an der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Geschichte und Aufgabenbereiche des Instituts für vergleichende Medien- und Kommunikationsforschung (The institutionalization of communication studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences: the history and research fields of the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies) in: Geistes-, sozial- und kulturwissenschaftlicher Anzeiger, 152 (2017), No. 1: 65–98.