Switzerland: yes to public broadcasters

The Swiss voted on Sunday by a clear margin in favour of keeping public TV and radio broadcaster (SRG). But the demand for reforms remains present and SRG has already announced cutbacks and job cuts. Commentators would like above all to see changes to the broadcaster's programming.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Jack-of-all-trades era is over

Even though the No-Billag initiative has failed, Swiss public radio still needs to be reformed, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung argues:

“In view of the changing media landscape and the explosive growth in the number of stations available, discussion about the performance and scope of the audiovisual public service must continue. The more the Internet influences the communications market, the more the performance mandate must focus on a public operator. The fee-financed, jack-of-all-trades era in public broadcasting is coming to an end. The provision of purchased series and the production of pure entertainment shows are becoming obsolete.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Debate about Germany's broadcasters also needed

The Süddeutsche Zeitung sees public broadcasting in general in crisis and believes that similar debates will arise in Germany too:

“The media world has been completely transformed over the last decades: by private broadcasters and also by the Internet which means you can get whatever you want and need from all over the world, including good television. To keep up [German public broadcasters] ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio have had their budget increased to eight billion euros per year for 20 TV channels and 60 radio stations plus websites. Do we want this? And if not, what kind of broadcasting do we want? This question should not only be allowed, it should be debated too.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Irresponsible in the fake news era

Le Temps finds the "No Billag" initiative aimed at abolishing radio and television licence fees out of tune with the times:

“It will benefit foreign radio and TV stations as well as digital companies like Google and Facebook. In terms of content it runs the risk of reducing editorial coverage and the diversity of opinion. In a country where the people are asked to go to the polls four times a year, that would be tantamount to overriding democratic debate. In view of the widespread diffusion of propaganda and fake news such a step would be irresponsible.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Indispensable in a direct democracy

Public media play a particularly important role in Switzerland, writes Pierre Ruetschi, chief editor of the daily paper Tribune de Genève in a commentary piece for La Repubblica:

“In a direct democracy that places power in the hands of the people it is twice as important to keep up to date with developments. In this respect the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, with its five TV channels and 17 radio stations, represents a central element of Swiss cohesion. ... If the 'No Billag' initiative is accepted by the people and the radio and television licence fees of 451 francs per year are scrapped, the Corporation will lose 75 percent of its income and thus be dissolved. The resulting audiovisual vacuum would not be without consequences.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

We don't need public broadcasting

Economist Pierre Bessard of the Geneva think tank Institut libéral doesn't agree with the view that the public broadcaster is a guarantor of national cohesion. He writes in Contrepoints:

“The cornerstones of contemporary Switzerland were laid more than a century before the public broadcasting network saw the light of day. What gives Switzerland its stability is the very opposite of what the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation represents: personal, constitutional liberties, competition between local jurisdictions, a liberal market economy and a strong, pluralist civil society. These qualities conflict with the principle of national tax-financed media. What's more, there is nothing to stop private organisations - non-profit or not - from acting as a bridge between the different regions. This is often already the case.”