National Council does not want to have a say in SRG concession

Parliament should have no say in the SRG concession. This was decided by the National Council on Tuesday, after a lively discussion about the meaning and purpose of public service broadcasting and the dangers of political influence on the media.


By 99 votes to 87 with 4 abstentions, the Council rejected a motion from its committee calling for shared competence in the mandate to SRG: Parliament should approve the general license, while the Federal Council should regulate the details in an operating license. The SVP, FDP and GLP were in favor of this. However, their parliamentary groups did not vote unanimously. Now, the current regulation remains in place, according to which the Federal Council is solely responsible for the concession.

Stop SRG expansion

The proponents of an amendment argued in vain that there was a need for tighter fetters for SRG. She, too, appreciates programs like "Tagesschau" or "Rundschau," said Natalie Rickli (SVP/ZH). "But why does SRG do what private companies offer or could offer?" The expansion of the SRG must be stopped, she said.

Thierry Burkart (FDP/AG) stated that private media providers also contribute to diversity and the public service. Thomas Müller (SVP/SG) criticized that today the SRG is in the hands of the Federal Council. In fact, it is a "state broadcaster".

Political influence

The opponents saw it the other way around: Today, SRG is not a state broadcaster, but it would become one if parliament were to exert political influence. The SVP wants to weaken SRG at all costs in order to be able to control it politically, said Martin Candinas (CVP/GR). The current autonomy of the SRG is a protection against populist forces that seek control over the media.

Edith Graf-Litscher (SP/TG) argued that in view of the increasing political influence on private media, it is more important than ever that SRG remains independent. In a direct democracy, this is of great importance. It was a question of "commerce and fake news" or "diversity and quality journalism.

Dangerous SRG bashing

Matthias Aebischer (SP/BE) stated that various circles were trying to talk SRG down. Some would profit economically from it, others would try to gain their own media power through it. Regula Rytz (Greens/BE) said it was high time to move away from "SRG bashing" and get to the facts. SRG was not to blame for the media crisis. It was the free websites and platforms like Facebook that were siphoning off advertising money.

The concentration process among the private broadcasters is a much greater challenge to diversity than the alleged dominance of SRG, he said. "Unfortunately, many will only realize this if more and more private titles end up in the hands of ideologically ticking media tycoons à la Walter Frey," Rytz said.

No influence on the program

Jürg Grossen (GLP/BE) replied to the opponents that the GLP did not want parliament to have a direct influence on programming either. With a dual competence, however, this would not be the case. Also under discussion was the idea of transferring responsibility for the concession entirely to parliament. This proposal from the ranks of the SVP was also rejected by the Council. The Federal Council had sided with the opponents. It argued that parliament could already define the framework for the SRG concession in the Radio and Television Act. A shared competence could lead to the current license expiring without parliament having approved a new one.

Leuthard amazed by liberals

In the Council, Media Minister Doris Leuthard emphasized the importance of SRG for democracy and national cohesion. Even in the new digital world, there is a need for a strong SRG. "If politics wants more and more influence - on media, on programming - that is dangerous," she said. Many countries are increasingly enacting censorship regulations, she said. These are countries that are not necessarily seen as role models, she said. "The fact that Switzerland, of all countries, is only already debating state political influence - especially the liberals - that really amazes me," the CVP federal councillor said.

Bundle of requirements

The debate was prompted by the Federal Council's public service report. The government wants to retain the model, but adapt it to the Internet age in the medium term so that the public service also reaches the younger generation. The Federal Council intends to present concrete proposals for legislative changes next year. The National Council's preliminary committee was dissatisfied with the report and demanded an additional report. In particular, it wanted to know where there was a market failure that justified state intervention.

The National Council has now taken note of these reports. In addition, it ordered a report to show how an independent supervisory authority for radio and television could be created. The Council will decide later on further proposals from its committee. The latter had formulated a whole bundle of demands concerning the SRG. (SDA)

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