Plans for online media funding are put up for discussion

In future, online media should also benefit from state media funding. In the medium term, the Federal Council is debating the introduction of channel-independent funding for all electronic media without a performance mandate.

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This is what the national government writes in a report published on Wednesday. The National Council had called for a strategy for future-oriented media funding in a postulate that was referred. The Federal Council has now outlined various options that could be implemented without revising the Federal Constitution.

State media subsidies have existed in Switzerland for a long time, particularly in the area of delivery allowances for the press - so-called indirect press subsidies. There is currently no support for online media or free media. According to the Federal Council, this should change.

Parliament at work

General support measures for all electronic media could therefore be implemented quickly. A corresponding bill for more money for journalistic education and training, agency services, self-regulation of the industry and digital infrastructures is currently being drafted by the responsible parliamentary committee. However, online media and free media would still be excluded from funding.

In addition to the promotion of online and free offerings, the Federal Council also plans to extend the promotion of usage research, which currently only benefits radio and television, to all electronic media. In future, those who meet certain eligibility criteria should be entitled to a subsidy calculated according to specific assessment criteria.

Replacing indirect press funding

In the medium term, the Federal Council is discussing channel-independent funding for all electronic media without a performance mandate. This could be based on the number of jobs for media professionals or turnover and give preference to smaller media. "This would support the transformation of the press to online offerings," writes the Federal Council in the report.

This new channel-independent subsidy could replace the delivery allowance for the local and regional press immediately or in stages, as the government writes further. Alternatively, the delivery allowance could be continued in parallel for a certain period of time and only be replaced if the channel-independent subsidy is evaluated positively.

No major reform

The Federal Council is not focusing on a completely channel-independent and comprehensive media funding system that also covers the press and, in addition to funding media without a performance mandate, also includes funding for media with a performance mandate, i.e. the public service including the SRG. This would require an amendment to the Federal Constitution. The details of the SRG concession are to be discussed when the new concession is granted.

Two years ago, voters clearly rejected a package of measures in favor of the media. The points of criticism were fundamental reservations about state media funding, the fact that large media organizations benefited greatly and the lack of support for free media. Since then, parliament has been trying to relaunch at least parts of the package.

Difficult situation

The digital transformation poses major challenges for the Swiss media. Media use has shifted away from traditional media towards online offerings and social media in recent years, particularly among younger target groups.

At the same time, a shift in advertising revenue towards foreign online platforms such as Google and Facebook can be observed. These platforms do not produce journalistic content for the Swiss population. According to the Federal Council, the financing of the democratic function of the Swiss media is therefore under great pressure.

In an initial statement, the Swiss Media Publishers Association (VSM) welcomed new possibilities for media promotion. However, these should not be at the expense of indirect press subsidies. On the contrary: the reduction in delivery charges must be extended for the next seven years in order to ensure the supply of information in the regions and at the same time enable the digital transformation.

Impressum was also pleased with the Federal Council's report, as the journalists' association also announced on Wednesday. In order to promote independent journalism, the number of journalistic positions in a media company and membership of the professional register of journalists working in the media must be anchored as a funding criterion. The professional register is the only reliable criterion for media professionals to recognize the Code of Journalism.(SDA)

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