Swiss media to cooperate despite competition

Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga has called on newspaper publishers to work together. Direct democracy depends on strong domestic media, she said on Wednesday evening at the opening of the Swiss Media Forum in the KKL Luzern.

Simonetta Sommaruga delivers a speech at the Swiss Media Forum in Lucerne's KKL. (Image: Severin Bigler)

In her speech, the Federal Councilor, who as head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport and Communications is also responsible for the media, addressed the consequences of so-called platformization. This term means that people no longer read the news in a particular newspaper, but on a platform like Facebook or Instagram. In doing so, they forget who is responsible for the articles, Sommaruga explained.

Newspaper publishers are losing advertising revenue with platformization. When there is less money, editorial teams are downsized and titles are merged, the Federal Councilor said. The population pays for their media consumption at the foreign Internet giants with their personal data.

Lack of transparency

But the Federal Councilor sees another problem: The platforms are not as neutral as they appear. A few American and Chinese companies would determine what content would be shown in Switzerland. They would shape the world's perception, and no one would know what attitude the platforms had. With the NZZ and the WoZ on the other hand, readers would know from which point of view the world is viewed.

Thanks to the platforms, politicians can address the general public directly and without the media. They can thus avoid a confrontation with the media and critical inquiries, Sommaruga explained. The media's watchdog role is weakened.

Media must be on site

The Federal Councillor, who herself is also active in social media, did not deny that the platforms also have their good sides. However, she said that Switzerland, as a direct democracy, could not afford to weaken its domestic media. Large Internet corporations could not replace local media, she said. "Only where there are local media, the population knows what is going on in the region," she said.

Because platformization cannot be stopped, the media must work together, Sommaruga explained. Where cooperation makes sense, joint solutions should be sought, including with SRG. Competition does not exclude selective cooperation.

Media praise instead of media scolding

Sommaruga also promoted the media law, which will be put to the vote in 2022. This would strengthen the diversity and independence of the media. She said it was now good manners to make fun of the media. But she thinks their work is central to Switzerland. "You can still say that."

The main program of the Swiss Media Congress will take place on Thursday. Topics that the Federal Councillor had touched on - the power of the American Internet giants or the referendum against the Media Promotion Act, but also technical innovations or the use of gender-neutral language - will be discussed. (SDA)

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