The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, has told a symposium in Lucerne that cultural diversity is indispensable as a weapon against injustice and as a means to prevent violence.
Dreifuss was speaking at a two-day symposium organised by the Europa Forum Lucerne.
"Cultural diversity is indispensable and we would stand to lose much if packages of universal knowledge were to disappear," she said.
In a reference to the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, she added: "Under no circumstances should we engage in cultural confrontation or a polarisation of ideas, which pits western culture against Islamic culture."
The symposium dealt with such issues as the impact of the audio-visual media on culture and the relationship between culture and the private sector.
Farewell to linear TV
One of the lead speakers, Peter Glotz, director of the Institute for Media and Communications Management in St Gallen, said developments in digital technology could lead to an even greater marginalisation of culture on television than exists today.
So-called linear television won't exist in the foreseeable future, he said, which means audiences will be able to call up programmes that interest them, and they're not likely to be cultural.
Peter Studer, the president of the Swiss Press Council, said that with the growing dominance of audio-visual media it's interesting to analyse what they are doing to get culture across to the public.
"The question in Switzerland is, especially for the subsidised media, do they do enough, are they creative enough to transport culture and to do so in prime time?"
Money and culture
On the issue of culture and the economy, Glotz said culture is becoming an increasingly important factor in the economy, while the economy promotes various forms of culture. So it would be foolish to play one off against the other.
At the same, he said, it would be just as foolish not to recognise that digital Capitalism promotes particular forms of culture and suppresses or even destroys others.
A member of the Swiss House of Representatives, Maya Lalive d'Epinay, said culture is an important part of the economy.
"It's very important nowadays because we are in the middle of a transformation from an industrialised society to the knowledge society and all the abilities that artists have in the cultural sphere are necessary to solve today's problems in business or politics."
The way artists work and what they express can be invaluable in work outside the cultural sphere, she said. "It's very important that we remain open to culture and that we hear and listen to what artists have to say and that they listen to what we have to say."
The Europa Forum Lucerne was created to act as a platform for dialogue and opinion among European representatives of politics, economics, culture and sport.
by Paul Sufrin