29 June, 2016
Adapting PSB to the digital environment - a new Swiss report
On 17 June 2016, the Swiss government (the “Federal Council”) published a 137-page report analysing the performance of Swiss public service media in the Internet age. The report deals with the performance of the main Swiss public service broadcaster, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR), but it also takes into account the challenges for regional PSBs.
In a nutshell, the Federal Council comes to the conclusion that the existing model - with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR) being a major provider anchored in all the linguistic regions - has proved itself and that this guarantees a high-quality public service for the sake of direct democracy in Switzerland, a country characterised by linguistic and cultural diversity. The model is also deemed to be the most suitable one for the future. However, the report emphasises that the demands on the SRG SSR must be made more stringent - though based on the same budget. Furthermore, the SRG SSR is asked to better address the requirements of young people who are turning to the Internet.
The main findings of the report are the following:
A fee-funded PSB remains essential: For reasons related to national policy and obligations deriving from the Constitution, it is essential for the Federal Council that Switzerland continues in the future to have an independent and comprehensive public service funded by fees. An audiovisual landscape which takes all population groups into account is a key factor for the integration of all social groupings and for the functioning of direct democracy. In the Internet age more than ever, high-quality information, cultural, educational and entertainment offerings from the national public service have an important role to play for Swiss citizens as a reference.
Adapting licences: The existing model is deemed to have worked satisfactorily and have met the requirements, even though it has to be adapted to the digital environment. The next licensing exercice scheduled for 2019 will be an opportunity to make specific adjustments. With regard to the fee-funded local radio and regional television stations, it is envisaged to introduce more precise standards relating to the structure of regional information services. The Federal Council also expects the SRG SSR’s programming and online offerings to be better differentiated from commercial content. A broad scope and a high level of information content should continue to be the key requirements of the SRG SSR's licence. With regard to entertainement, a leading editorial role and distinctiveness should be aimed for. The requirements relating to the SRG SSR’s integration services should be made more rigorous. The SRG SSR must be present wherever the public - and especially young people - are.
Existing funding levels retained: The Federal Council comes to the conclusion that SRG SSR's resources are sufficient to fulfil the public service remit and that SRG SSR is required to make even more efficient use of its resources.
Balance public/commercial media: The Federal Council supports co-operation between the SRG SSR and private sector media and between the licensed regional television broadcasters. The current advertising restrictions, including those in the online sector, are to remain for the time being to preserve a degree of economic balance in relation to commercial media.
Increasing legitimacy: The Federal Council expects public service media to enhance its perceived legitimacy as a service to society and to demonstrate more clearly its added value for society. Greater dialogue with the public and politicians is deemed indispensable.
Announcing legislative changes to adapt to convergence in the medium term: in the medium term, the Federal Council aims to develop the current Radio and Television Act - which covers only radio and television - into a law on electronic media to keep pace with developments of the media ecosystem.
Source: Swiss Federal Office of Communication