The history of the Department of Communication is eventful and full of challenges. The Department was founded in May 1942 at the time of National Socialism. After a difficult reorientation in the post-war period as well as the transformation from the classic tradition of newspaper studies to mass media and communication research at the beginning of the seventies, the Department experienced very high numbers of students in the following decades. The main focus was on teaching and applied research.  A detailed description of the remarkable history of the Department until 2010 can be found here.

In recent times, the Department has completely repositioned itself, moving toward an internationally visible research orientation, with research excellence as the main principle. One of the cornerstones of this reorientation was the appointment of Klaus Schönbach as head of the Department, who introduced numerous changes in the period from September 2010 to January 2014. This included bringing Katharine Sarikakis (2011) and Jörg Matthes (2011), from Leeds and Zurich respectively, to Vienna.

After Schönbach left for Northwestern University in Qatar, Jörg Matthes took over as head of the Department and intensified the efforts to restructure and reposition the Department. Over the course of the following years, more professors were appointed, namely Hajo Boomgaarden (2014, from Amsterdam), Homero Gil de Zuniga (2014, from U of Texas at Austin), Sabine Einwiller (2014, from Mainz), Folker Hanusch (2016, from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane), Sophie Lecheler (2017, from Amsterdam) and Annie Waldherr (2020, from Münster). Furthermore, three tenure track assistant professorships were established (Florian Arendt, Claudia Wilhelm, Tobias Dienlin, and lately Kathrin Karsay). In September 2023, Desirée Schmuck was appointed as Professor of Media Change and Media Innovation.

Since October 1, 2022, Sabine Einwiller is leading the Department as Chair after Jörg Matthes stepped down after 8,5 years.

In 2012, the Department moved to a new building in Währinger Straße 29 and in 2020, reflecting the growth of the Department, another location in the heart of Vienna (Kolingasse 14) was added. In 2016, the Department launched an English-language master's degree program in communication science and completely redesigned the bachelor's and master's degree programs as part of the new international research orientation (2018). In addition to initiating a research award for young scientists (since 2014), an English-language Research Talks Series with high-caliber talks from all over the world (since 2014), a reorientation of the communication strategy (2014 and 2020) and numerous other activities, an institutional review board (IRB) was finally established in 2019.

Among other things, the reorientation of the Department led to a significant increase in publications in Q1 journal articles as well as an increasing list of competitively acquired third-party funded projects, leading to an enormous increase in scientific staff.

Moreover, the Department achieved excellent positions in international rankings, which compare locations around the world based on standardized criteria: While the Department did not appear in the top 200 worldwide in the Shanghai Ranking before 2014, it was among the top 200 in 2014, among the best 150 in 2015, among the top 100 in 2016, and since 2017, it has been one of the top 50 Departments for communication worldwide.