CEO Schwab clarifies: SDA is not a nonprofit organization

The Swiss News Agency sda is a private, profit-oriented stock corporation, says CEO Markus Schwab in an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag. There can be no question of national coverage at zero cost.


"Why does anyone get the idea that we have an obligation for a public service?" said Schwab. SDA is not a nonprofit organization, he said, but a company that has the goal of making reasonable profits. Thus, he said, the SDA "only owes something to its shareholders."

Schwab rejects the principle stated in an SDA brochure from 2008 that the company is not profit-oriented. That is no longer valid, he said. "There is nothing in the SDA statutes about that," the CEO said.

Schwab also sees the planned federal contribution of two million francs from the fee money to the sda not as a subsidy, but as a performance mandate. "We are free to decide whether we want to accept it. It is possible that this contract will not pay off at all.

Merger with Keystone

He said the SDA showed a deficit for 2017 and he expects a shortfall of 3.1 million for 2018. The reason for this is tariff reductions and because customers no longer subscribe to other services. In addition, "the costs of the editorial office" have caused "a structural deficit for years.

He could not go into a merger "with a structural hole. The Board of Directors sees it exactly the same way. At the end of October, sda and the Keystone photo agency announced their merger. The merger still has to be approved by the Weko competition commission.

Until now, he had been in charge of sda's subsidiaries and service departments, Schwab said. Only after the departure of the editor-in-chief last fall did it become clear to him that "there was a lot more wrong than people thought. And he was quite "perplexed by the aggressive mood" that had hit him.

Working groups after restructuring

The news agency SDA had announced on January 8 that it would have to undertake a comprehensive reorganization. Although it was able to renew contracts with its most important customers, it expects a slump in sales due to the great pressure on prices.

Of 150 full-time editorial positions, around 36 are to be cut, affecting more than 80 people in total. Among others, the business, foreign and culture editorial departments will be cut. Schwab said that after the reorganization, working groups will develop proposals on what the SDA should look like in the future. "We are guided by the wishes of the customers."

The staff reacted to the cuts last week in Bern with a warning strike. Between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., only an emergency service was in operation in the German- and French-language SDA service. The Italian-language newsroom did not broadcast any news at all until 5 p.m. (SDA)

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