Switzerland’s largest media group, Zurich-based Tamedia, has struck a deal with one of the country’s most controversial politicians, Christoph Blocher.
In exchange for passing some of its free local gazettes over to Blocher’s company, Tamedia will acquire the prestigious German-speaking newspaper Basler Zeitungexternal link (BaZ), previously co-owned by the Swiss People’s Party politician.
“The integration of the Basler Zeitung into Tamedia’s network will enable a strong regional editorial team”, the Zurich publishing group announced on Wednesday.
Media trade union syndicomexternal link said that Tamedia’s take-over of the long-established BaZ would allow the company to “expand its dominant position in the Swiss media even further”. Even without this addition, it said, 40% of Switzerland’s German-speaking daily press circulation is published by Tamedia; in French-speaking Switzerland this share is even higher, at 69%.
Despite having lost some 20% of its readers since 2013, the BaZ currently still has a daily circulation rate of 46,353, according to the latest figures from the media advertising institute Wemfexternal link.
In return for the sale of the newspaper, Blocher’s company Zeitungshaus AGexternal link will incorporate several of Tamedia’s free local newspapers, the most important of which is Zurich’s official local gazette Tagblattexternal link, currently distributed free of charge to most of the city’s households.
Zeitungshaus AG, which Blocher co-founded, said that the company had with the aim of “promoting media diversity” in Switzerland, and that the transaction would serve this purpose.
The media union Syndico also criticised the deal, saying that it would allow the “billionaire Christoph Blocher to expand his free news empire”. It suspects that he will take advantage the various regional gazettes for “propaganda purposes for his campaigns”.