Fiver and dime for Swiss private TVs

Fee splitting Urs Rohner, head of ProSieben/Sat 1 Media, made his case for Swiss private TVs at the Biel Communication Days. To survive, he said, they need fee money and an SRG that can manage without advertising, like the BBC.

Fee splitting Urs Rohner, head of ProSieben/Sat 1 Media, put his foot down for Swiss private TVs at the Biel Communication Days. To survive, they need fee money and an SRG that, like the BBC, can manage without advertising, he said.When the head of a German TV corporation takes up the cause of Swiss private TVs, it's quite special. But when he also takes up the cudgels for them, it is just too extraordinary. This is what happened last week in Biel, at the Biel Communication Days, held for the second time by the Federal Office of Communications. In his presentation on the topic of "How is the public service interpreted?", Rohner, CEO of ProSieben/Sat 1 Media, began by criticizing SRG and its understanding of the public service. By interpreting public service very openly as "basic provision for all across the board," for example, SF-DRS Director Peter Schellenberg said that SRG had not only said goodbye to the former "educational television," but also to the original geographical understanding. This had simply called for an equivalent range of programs for all language regions.
"The broad service-public concept of the SRG today prevents greater media diversity in the audiovisual sector in Switzerland," Rohner criticized. His conclusion: "SRG should limit itself to information, consulting, education and culture and - like the British BBC - to pure fee financing."
Not a word about the fact that the private broadcasters should, by implication, forego their share of the fees. On the contrary, according to the media lawyer, information is a public service task par excellence. From this point of view, the broadcast of the 2002 World Cup on Sat 1 Switzerland was also in line with this. "Those who provide information services should receive fees.
Rohner justified the five-and-dime demand with Switzerland's small-scale nature - and with the experience of German regional broadcasters, there called conurbation TV. "There is no economically successful conurbation TV in Germany," he said. The reasons: Despite reaches of up to ten percent, or a million viewers, national advertisers would forgo the stations because they are guaranteed to get the same service cheaper at one of the 32 German stations broadcasting nationwide. Conversely, he says, the rates are too high for local traders. Rohner: "The costs for regional TV cannot be covered by advertising revenues alone." In an interview with Werbewoche, Rohner was not willing to accept the fact that Tele Züri was in the black for a year as a counterexample for other dimensions in the Swiss market. Tele Züri under Schawinski was not representative; it had been pushed massively - quite rightly - by the industry at the time, he said.
Despite the slim chance of economic success, however, Rohner said Switzerland should not do without regional TVs. Although he did not say how many local stations there was room for in Switzerland, in his opinion there was a clear need for local information here in the country, all the more so as the SRG hardly offered any. This is an astonishing conclusion, since Rohner had previously shown quite impressively how little demand there was at the time for the news of the RTL/Pro-7 program window, which was produced especially for Switzerland. Even the German news on the same channel would have shown more Swiss viewers. "When I saw these figures, it was immediately clear to me that we would have to discontinue the program window," he said.
Should not remain an SRG monopoly alone: public service in the TV sector.

Markus Knöpfli

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