A system change for media support
Institutional Communication Service
16 January 2023
A system change is needed to provide support for the media. This is according to a new report by the Federal Media Commission (FMEC), which includes Colin Porlezza, professor at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, Institute of Media and Journalism. In light of the changing realities of production, distribution and consumption of today's digital media, the commission does not see a future for technology- and gender-oriented media support and therefore recommends a system change through a technology-neutral orientation instead of a reduction in postal rates and fee sharing.
"From now on," reads the FMEC release, "all private media outlets, regardless of broadcasting channel or genre, should be eligible for subsidies, provided their journalistic content appeals to a wide audience and they voluntarily commit to industry self-regulation. This way, all private journalistic offers will be treated equally, regardless of whether they are printed, streamed, or distributed as text, video or audio contributions. Reduced postal rates presently charged for the morning delivery of selected newspapers or the sharing of fee revenues for some private radio and television stations should be substituted through the new system.
In addition to the SRG, financed by TV fees, some private Swiss media already receive financial support from the public sector. However, this is according to the type of media and technology. For example, newspaper distribution by the Swiss Post receives subsidies, and some private radio and TV broadcasters receive a share of the TV fee. FMEC now recommends replacing these measures with a technology-neutral support system that treats all content offerings equally, regardless of whether they are printed, streamed, or broadcast as text, video, or audio. FMEC, therefore, places fruition at the heart of its discussions.
The centrality of fruition and areas of support
"Given the hardship of the economy, especially of regional and local media in Switzerland, it is necessary to support private providers of journalistic content with public funds in addition to the SRG," says Commission Chair Anna Jobin. However, these should be free to decide how to reach the population with their content. Since the goal is to make democracy-relevant information as widely available as possible, it does not matter what form this takes. FMEC, therefore, places fruition at the heart of its thinking.
Concretely, the Commission sees three areas in which this support can be implemented:
- through general measures to strengthen the sector;
- by supporting at the operational level private and primarily regional journalistic offerings;
- by supporting projects of privately owned press offers such as local start-ups and media innovation projects.
The Commission continues to support an independent, publicly funded national public service that must provide a converged performance mandate in exchange for media license fee revenues.
Ensure state-independent allocation of funds
This system change cannot happen overnight and requires legal adjustments. Accordingly, transitional measures are needed for media already receiving support. FMEC also reiterates its often-expressed recommendation that media support must be structured in a way that is imperatively independent of the state and makes a political influence on editorial decisions impossible. The proposed system change offers an opportunity to entrust responsibility for allocating funds to a body independent of political influence, such as a foundation, a state-independent media regulator or an advisory board.
FMEC remains available for further information. You can contact Martina Leonarz, Specialized Secretariat [email protected].
Find the full report on the dedicated website and in the appendix.