Bernese government slows down on media funding due to tight finances

The Bernese cantonal government has passed the new Bernese Information and Media Promotion Act for the attention of the Grand Council. It refrains from applying to the council for funds for indirect media promotion and also slows down on direct media promotion in the French part of the canton.

Whether French-language Bernese media such as the Journal du Jura can receive direct funding is no longer so clear to the Bernese government. (Archive photo: Keystone/Georgios Kefalas)

So far, the government has said that in this area, the canton of Berne wants to extend the current direct media support of radio stations to all media. In this way, the government wanted to secure local reporting in this geographically limited market area in the long term.

In a statement on Monday, the Bernese government now writes that "if the corresponding funds are available one day", direct media promotion could take place in the French-speaking area of the canton.

The cantonal government is proceeding cautiously with regard to indirect media support throughout the canton: "At the moment", the difficult financial situation of the canton of Berne does not permit indirect support, the statement says.

The cantonal government believes that now is the time to present this draft law to the cantonal parliament, Christoph Auer, Bern's state secretary, said in response to a question. For 2022, however, the government had not budgeted any contributions. For 2023, contributions are to be examined as part of the financial planning process.

Informing alone is no longer enough

Today, the canton of Berne provides information on the basis of the Information Act from 1993. Now, the cantonal government wants to develop this law into an Information and Media Promotion Act. This is the new name.

This is because information and communication technologies have changed and demands have also changed. The government council wants to create the conditions for stronger media promotion because it sees media diversity at risk due to the increasing concentration in the Bern media center.

So far, the government has cited financial support for news agencies and financial assistance for digital media infrastructures as examples of indirect media support.

Funds for institutions that in turn support the media, for example through discounted training and continuing education programs for journalists, were also mentioned. The cantonal government has always emphasized that the financial situation of the canton must also be taken into account when determining specific support funds.

In the French-speaking area of the canton, the canton of Berne has so far provided direct support for radio stations. Now this direct media promotion is to be extended to all media. It also aims to strengthen media skills and political education, especially among young people.

In addition, the law serves as the formal legal basis for financing the Käfigturm political forum. The Bernese Grand Council will discuss it in the first reading in the spring session of the coming year.

Consultation is over

In the consultation process, which was carried out in the summer, the draft law was basically well received by the Bernese parties. No one had anything against stronger direct media promotion in the French-speaking area of the canton.

The parties disagreed on how far the canton of Bern should go in the German-speaking area of the canton: some parties would welcome direct media support, others would not. Support for news agencies, specifically Keystone-SDA, was not questioned by any party. (SDA)

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