Switzerland: synergies are the name of the game

The information in Swiss media is coming from ever fewer newsrooms. The pressure to cut costs is driving the concentration of ownership, but also leading to the discovery of new options for synergies.

Roger Köppel, publisher and editor-in-chief of Die Weltwoche and a member of the National Council for the SVP.
Roger Köppel, publisher and editor-in-chief of Die Weltwoche and a member of the National Council for the SVP.
As media consumption shifts to the Internet, Swiss media outlets are forced to compete with online giants such as Facebook and Google, and this competition has left publishers with heavy losses in terms of advertising revenue. The trend is accelerating the concentration of media ownership. Media companies are setting up central editorial offices that supply their regional offices with information and journalistic content.

In October 2018, NZZ Regionalmedien (including St. Galler Tagblatt, Luzerner Zeitung) and AZ Medien (including Aargauer Zeitung) merged to form CH Media, a company with just over 2,000 employees. Soon afterwards, CH Media began its first restructuring: Sunday newspapers (Ostschweiz am Sonntag as well as Zentralschweiz am Sonntag) were discontinued and several departments were merged into one, resulting in the loss of around 200 jobs.

Tamedia, the country’s largest private media group (Tages-Anzeiger, Der Bund, Tribune de Genève and other papers) had already merged several of its editorial offices and now has only two central offices, one for German-language publications and the other for French-language publications. The company was turned into a holding company and is now called TX Group. The publishers claim the centralisation measures boost their independence and create synergies. They argue that a large editorial office has more clout than lots of small editorial offices, which are less able to withstand economic and political pressure.

But in addition to mergers media companies are also adopting other strategies in response to dwindling advertising revenues, such as shifting their focus to audio and moving image content. CH Media acquired the 3 Plus Group of TV channels in 2019, so that together with its regional stations it is now the number one in the Swiss private television market. It also owns various regional radio stations. At the end of the same year, the company 20 Minuten, which offers an online music radio and free newspaper under the same name and belongs to the TX Group, acquired the radio station Planet 105. Renowned publishing houses including the Neue Zürcher Zeitung are also investing in digital content and now produce podcasts and other digital products. The Ringier group is also seeking to gain a foothold in the digital market with Blick TV: it has created some 50 full-time positions for the online television channel, which went into operation in 2020.

Swiss public service broadcasting is also undergoing radical reform: in March 2018 a referendum aimed at depriving Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) of its financial basis by abolishing broadcasting fees (the "No Billag" referendum) failed. But the pressure led to the implementation of a stringent austerity programme which has forced the broadcasting company to make major cuts in its programme.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 8 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020
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