UBI rejects complaint against SRF satire show "Deville" before vote

The Independent Complaints Authority for Radio and Television (UBI) has rejected a complaint against an edition of the SRF TV entertainment show "Deville" on the corporate responsibility initiative. According to the ruling, the show did not engage in political propaganda one week before the referendum.

Dominic Deville talks about the Corporate Responsibility Initiative in the Nov. 22, 2020 broadcast. (Screenshot: Youtube.com)

The UBI unanimously rejected the complaint against the approximately 35-minute performance on November 22, 2020, it announced Monday after its public deliberation. No program regulations had been violated. The broadcasting law information principles could only be applied to satirical formats to a limited extent.


The UBI explained its decision by stating that the program was a comedy format with satirical elements that was clearly recognizable to the audience, and not serious information. The principle of objectivity and the principle of diversity can only be applied to a very limited extent to such entertainment programs.

The satirical character of the show was transparent, the UBI further explained. Presenter Dominic Deville had also caricatured both camps and had not recommended a vote. At the end, he only asked the audience to vote, "regardless of whether yin or yang".

Editor-in-chief welcomes decision

The editor-in-chief of SRF television welcomed the UBI decision. It was an important authoritative ruling, he wrote in a reaction on the short message service Twitter. The complaints authority stands by the freedom of satire, even before votes.

A week before the federal referendum on the corporate responsibility initiative at the end of November 2020, the late-night show devoted practically an entire program to the popular initiative. After the broadcast, there was a hail of indignant reactions. The SRG ombudsman's office received 14 complaints. One complaint, which ultimately ended up before the UBI, complained that the show had made a one-sided case for the referendum.

Ombudsman's office criticized broadcast

In contrast to the UBI, the SRG ombudsman's office had previously approved complaints against the satire broadcast. In its opinion, the broadcast just seven days before the referendum had violated the requirement of objectivity in the Radio and Television Act. SRF's journalistic guidelines would also apply to satire before a referendum, the ombudsman's office was of the opinion. Otherwise, the balance observed in information broadcasts could be undermined by satire broadcasts.

The complainants can appeal the UBI's decision to the Federal Supreme Court. The Corporate Responsibility Initiative demanded that corporations based in Switzerland respect human rights and international environmental standards outside Switzerland as well. The initiative, which was approved by around 50.7 percent of the electorate, ultimately failed to win a majority of the cantons.

In addition, the UBI also unanimously rejected several complaints against various reports on the initiative by the SRF TV program "Tagesschau. Finally, the panel approved a complaint against a news report on Radio SRF's "Heute Morgen" about the planned framework agreement between the European Union and Switzerland. The report contained incorrect information about a newspaper interview with former EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger. (SDA)

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