The popularity of news websites and free newspapers is eroding the quality of journalism in Switzerland, according to a research institute at Zurich University.This content was published on August 13, 2010 - 12:00
The drop in quality is also due to the disastrous financial situation of many publishers, the Center for Research on the Public Sphere and Society said in its report on the Swiss media, published on Friday.
Shrinking budgets and the shift to a culture where the public expects news and information to be free of charge has led to a “fundamental transformation process”, the authors wrote.
This, the report states, has also had an impact on the quality of democratic debate.
As an example, the authors highlighted the public discussion last year in the run up to a vote on an initiative to ban the building of minarets.
Even though most of the parties represented in government opposed a ban, the rightwing proponents of the initiative were given more newspaper space, and air time, thanks to a provocative public relations campaign.
In a country once proud of its wide range of high-calibre newspapers, the report added, the daily broadsheets have seen a significant drop in circulation and revenue, and correspondingly, editorial resources.
At the same time, the public – flooded with free sources of news and information – no longer has an appreciation for professional journalism which also undermines quality, and leads to newspaper consolidation.
The president of the Swiss Press Association, Hanspeter Lebrument, rejected the findings of the study and said that the Swiss media did not need widespread restructuring.
He admitted that the press was in difficulty now compared with the situation a few years ago but argued there was a crisis in the sector every eight or nine years.
The press was in fairly good shape if one took a long-term view, he added.
Lebrument also disputed that the sector played any role in damaging the democratic process in Switzerland. He said that media diversity was more than enough to allow “everyone to give their opinion”.
swissinfo.ch and agencies
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