Radio and TV: Solothurn puts on the brakes for new allocation

The Solothurn government council is demanding an interim stop from the federal government in the new distribution of coverage areas for private radio and TV programs. Central questions such as the criteria for the distribution of the areas and the fee money are still open in the draft of the ordinance.

Solothurn
The Solothurn government council regrets that there is "hardly any journalistic competition in print media, radio and TV in the canton of Solothurn." (Image: Keystone/Gaetan Bally)

The proposed revision is basically a step in the right direction, according to the statement to the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) published on Monday. It makes sense to provide for coverage areas along cantonal borders. However, the cantonal borders ignore the cohesion of regions.

The canton of Solothurn was in a "field of tension" here. On the one hand, in the view of the government council, a new concession should cover the canton as a whole. Thus, the districts of Dorneck and Thierstein would also be included in the "Solothurn" coverage area and not in the Basel coverage area as planned in the proposal.

No money for regional overlap

At the same time, overlaps should be possible, especially for the canton of Solothurn. As an example, the government council mentions the Schwarzbubenland region with the Basel area or the western part of the canton between Solothurn and Grenchen with the Biel region.

In the current draft, private radio stations are free to broadcast outside the coverage area. However, no money is available to them from the federal government for this. From the point of view of the canton of Solothurn, an appropriate cost sharing - under the condition that the journalistic requirements are also met in the "overlapping area" - would be desirable, according to the statement.

Wait for the result of the referendum

In addition, the timing of the consultation seems "somewhat awkwardly chosen," the government council notes. From the government council's point of view, the upcoming vote on the referendum on the media law in February should be awaited. Only then can work continue with a clear framework.

In the future, there will be more coverage areas for local radio and TV stations in Switzerland - twenty for radio stations instead of the current twelve. In each area, there will be a provider with a public service mandate who will receive money from the radio and TV levy in return.

Government misses competition from the media

The government council also expressed "a few fundamental considerations" in its statement to the federal government. In a democratic system that depends on the active participation of the population in decisions and processes, a media landscape that is as diverse as possible, with media companies that are committed to quality journalism, is of great importance. This is essential for the independent formation of opinion by each and every individual and thus for the functioning of the state.

Unfortunately, however, the trend in recent years has been in a completely different direction. The number of newspaper subscribers is steadily declining, he said, and revenues from advertisements are plummeting. "Uniform head sheets characterize the print landscape and the associated online platforms. Savings are also being made on regional editorial offices, and there is an increasing lack of resources and know-how: quality journalism is no longer guaranteed in every case," writes the government council.

The same picture can be seen in the private radio stations, which are often integrated into large media companies. "Due to the concentration in the media market, there is hardly any journalistic competition, especially in the canton of Solothurn - as far as cantonal and regional topics are concerned. In the print sector, this is completely lacking." (SDA)

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