A federal report has concluded that the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) must keep evolving to adapt to the digital revolution overtaking all media.
The report, prepared at the request of parliament and adopted by the government on Friday, comes in the wake of pressure from right-wing politicians to scale back the mandate of the public service media.
Reaction to the report was varied. Whereas some groups saw it as providing a good basis for discussion, others found it “disappointing” and “incomplete” and said they had hoped for more concrete suggestions for reform.
The centre-right Radical Party criticised the report’s “lack of a strategy for the future”. Simply holding on to the current model of public service will not bring the media landscape further, the party said in a statement.
The report adopted Friday says the public media service must be information-oriented, multilingual, high quality and take account of all population groups, but that it also must continue to improve its offering for young people who mainly get information or connect through the internet.
“Especially in the area of entertainment, but also in sport, more competition is not only needed but essential,” said the conservative right Swiss People’s Party.
Other parties were generally satisfied with the report. The centre-left Social Democratic Party and the centre-right Christian Democrats felt the report offers a good basis for constructive discussion of public service.
The SBC should offer more opportunities for programming that promotes the development of public opinion, the Christian Democrats wrote.
And the Social Democrats praised the report’s call for strengthening the SBC’s internet presence.
The report maintains a ban on online advertising for the next three to five years. However, the cabinet wants to update the laws for electronic media, beyond the current language for radio and television.
Support for the SBC
In a statement following the release of the report, the SBC said the cabinet considers it to be an organisation “willing to change, which continually evolves and has proven its value in the digital age”. The SBC has the know-how to “make a contribution in a time of fragmentation in the digital community”.
The public broadcaster added that in the midst of upheaval in the media the government report creates “the basis for a constructive, open discussion of what constitutes successful public service and how the public media company SBC will develop in the future.”
Earlier this month, the cabinet approved a new mandate for swissinfo.ch, the international online service of the SBC, for a four-year period starting from January 1, 2017.
The cabinet will contribute nearly CHF20 million ($20.2 million) annually – or CHF1.6 million less than it does currently – to continue to co-finance swissinfo.ch, as well as tvsvizzera.it, TV5Monde and 3sat, which all provide news and information for international audiences.
For the first time, the mandate for swissinfo.ch explicitly requires the service to offer relevant curated content from external sources and “citizen journalism” to more actively involve the public in content creation.
Regular coverage of issues about direct democracy and the integration of immigrants in Swiss society is also implicit in the mandate.