No more No Billag!

The "Media Opinion" column by David Sieber, Editor-in-Chief of BZ Basel | BZ Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, on the No Billag initiative.


It will take another three months before the electorate is finally allowed to sink the No Billag initiative. It threatens to be a long three months. Three months during which tweets will be flying around SRG's ears. Every unpopular program, every bumpy statement by a presenter, every bad result by a Swiss ski star is cited as convincing proof of why these wretched compulsory fees should be abolished.

Not that SRG is a sacred cow. Even if some of its employees behave like the general staff did in the days of the GSoA initiative. All that is really missing is a diamond celebration to commemorate the brave veterans. First and foremost Moritz Leuenberger, Armin Walpen and Roger de Weck. After all, they built the SRG into a redoubt. Except that this fortress covers the entire country and not just the Alps. The "public service" has become a fighting term that justifies any expansion. Even into the Internet and at the expense of private media. As befits a great power, the SRG tried to appease the publishers with an appeasement policy. At the same time, it looked for coalition partners. With Ringier, Swisscom and, most recently, the NZZ Group, they succeeded admirably. Admeira is the name of the marketing organization whose main purpose has already been fulfilled: to secure its own position.

And now this fortress is to be polished. With a popular initiative that resembles a media policy nuclear bomb. If it goes off, not only SRG will be pulverized. The collateral damage would be enormous. The Swiss media landscape would be completely upended. Out of the contaminated ruins would emerge not a new offering that would be better, of higher quality, cheaper and more humble, but a mixture of monopoly wastelands and small (Internet) biotopes that would attract few visitors. Democracy-relevant content would find an even smaller audience than today. Sports events from Formula 1 to soccer would only be available for cash. Entertainment boxes would level off at Bachelor level. The regional private TV stations - freed from the shackles of concessions - would position themselves even more as promotion platforms of guaranteed unscratchable pans. And the private radio stations would become mere playback stations of undemanding elevator music. They would no longer be able to afford journalists to edit the news from the region.

No Billag is an initiative of super-egoists.

And the newspapers? They won't be able to fill the gap either. The (advertising) franc is not suddenly gushing because the worst enemy has been defeated. On the contrary. In this completely new media world, the established titles financed in the traditional way would be pushed even further to the margins. And this would be done by those who have a few billion francs to their name and believe in the influence of the media on political life. But this species is not even the worst. It is those who believe that the media should be free per se. It is a disastrous misconception to think that the 365 Billag francs saved will benefit the industry. If any of it flows into media, it will be into the use of Netflix, Amazon or games. In addition, the still high journalistic quality of the private titles is due not least to the competition with SRG. The mostly right-wing No-Billagists can be as Trumpian as they like, but the fact is that the information programs on radio and TV are generally very well done.

No Billag is an initiative of super-egoists. By children of our time. Community responsibility is alien to them. They have managed to establish the term "close to the state" as a swear word in relation to SRG. As if the state were an enemy. As if SRG were not required to report just as critically and distantly about "those up there in Bern" as about those who drag the institutions through the mud at every opportunity. It is a very short distance from SRG bashing to the system media consistently concealing the outrageous truths about 9/11, chemtrails and Jewish world conspiracy. Publishers should stop their egg dance and take a clear stand before the aluhats target their products next. They don't have to lace up their combat boots like the No Billag opponents on their unspeakable poster.

David Sieber, Editor-in-Chief of BZ Basel | BZ Basellandschaftliche Zeitung

This column appeared in Werbewoche 21/2017.

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