Voters disagree with package for media promotion

There is no additional financial support from the federal government for private media in Switzerland. Voters rejected the media subsidy bill, especially in German-speaking Switzerland. In French-speaking Switzerland, on the other hand, the 'yes' vote prevailed.

Stimmvolk nicht einverstanden mit dem Paket für die Medienförderung
Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga assumes that the bill was probably too overloaded. (Screenshot:

The No vote on Sunday was just under 55 percent. Around 1,303,200 voters cast a "no" vote and around 1,085,200 a "yes" vote. If French-speaking Switzerland had had its way, the additional media subsidy would have been clearly accepted.

The canton of Ticino, on the other hand, was clearly in the "no" camp. Graubünden - where Italian- and Romansh-speaking areas said yes - and the bilingual cantons of Berne and Valais also voted against. The rejection was concentrated in German-speaking Switzerland, where only Basel-Stadt and Uri accepted the proposal.

No money for online media

Media houses would have received additional support of up to CHF 151 million a year, directly and indirectly. The money for this would have come from the federal treasury and the radio and television levy.

After the No vote, the current indirect subsidies for the printed press will remain in place. The federal government will continue to spend 50 million Swiss francs a year on delivery discounts for subscribed daily newspapers, magazines and association and club publications. These funds will not be increased to 120 million Swiss francs.

Online media with paid offerings will not receive any direct subsidies. Nor will the share for private radio and TV stations from the reception fee be increased.

Finally, the additional support for the media system from reception fees also failed. It should have been up to 23 million francs more than the current 5 million francs, including for training and continuing education, news agencies such as Keystone-SDA, media IT projects and the Press Council.

"Market-distorting state intervention" rejected

With their decision, the voters rejected market-distorting state intervention in the media industry and called for a critical distance between the media and the state and politics. This was written by the association "No to state-funded media" led by former St. Gallen FDP National Councilor Peter Weigelt.

The FDP wrote that the media industry, like any other industry, must be able to sell its products. The SVP sees the No vote as a rejection of "government-compliant left-wing uniformity". The association is making demands for a new approach to media funding: For example, only small media that are not owned by media groups should be supported.

The supporters do not want to leave independent journalism to market forces. The civil society committee "Yes to Media Diversity" now sees the ball in Parliament's court, as President Camille Roseau said when asked.

Pleas for a new start-up

In addition to rapid implementation of the undisputed points of the package, Roseau called in particular for contemporary support for online media. Here, the current situation rather corresponds to the situation of the 20th century.

The SP, the Greens, the center party and the unions also pleaded for a new attempt. For the Yes committee and also for the Swiss Media Publishers Association VSM, the financing difficulties of the domestic titles remain unresolved.

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga commented on the "no" vote by saying that the bill was out of balance and had failed to convince the population, adding that the package, which had been increased by around twice as much as the Federal Council's bill, was "probably too much" for the population.

It is too early, Sommaruga said on the question of whether controversial parts of the package should not be reopened. "When I see the reactions to the referendum result, we would do well to analyze them first," she said. The people's decision should be accepted, she said.

Media remain on the political agenda

The media remain a topic for politics anyway, for example in connection with ancillary copyright. As more and more advertising money is flowing to Internet companies, the Federal Council is having the Justice Department examine how a bill to protect journalistic publications could be structured.

Online groups should have to pay Swiss media a levy for distributing their journalistic content. According to Sommaruga, a consultation draft could be ready by the end of the year. But the implementation of the proposal needs time.

The reception fee could also come up again after 2018 - when the "No Billag" initiative was rejected. SVP National Councilor Gregor Rutz (ZH) told Swiss radio SRF, when asked about a new attack on the Swiss radio and television company SRG, that a non-partisan committee was working on a new initiative on reception fees. (SDA)

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