The media play a central role in direct democracy. The topic of media pluralism and content diversity is also closely related to Language policies (see chapter 2.5.4). The mandate of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR) is to produce and broadcast in Switzerland as a multilingual and multicultural country radio and television programmes in the country’s four languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Media pluralism and content diversity are central in catering for this plurality, as well as ensuring freedom of opinion. Institutional media diversity is, therefore, vital. According to the Federal Constitution (Radio and Television Act, 2007), radio and television must contribute to the education, to cultural development, to entertainment, to freedom of opinion, and should take in consideration the particularities and needs of both cantons and populations.
For this reason, radio and television studios are located in the different language regions, and extra funds are made available to enable the French, Italian and Romansh-language regions to produce as many programmes in their respective languages as in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. The dual-channel sound system also enables the bulk of broadcast programming to be viewed in English. In the larger areas, especially in the German-speaking urban agglomerations, English is regarded as an important foreign language.
On the 4th of March 2018, the “No Billag” Popular Initiative (“Say yes to abolishing radio and television fees (Abolition of Billag fees)”), looking to suppress the public fee towards television and radio, was rejected by the population (71.6% No votes). This fee allows financing of the SRG SSR nation and region-wide, as well as 21 local radios and 13 regional television channels for their public utility offer (local/regional events, politics, culture to mention a few). This reaction confirms the important place given to this public structure and to media independence. Public-funded media (SRG SSR) is first in rankings, followed by the private group Tamedia.
Since 2019, this fee is mandatory and concerns anyone that can access a television or radio service (via analogue or digital interfaces). Other funding for the SRG SSR and radios or televisions of public utility, comes from publicity and/or sponsorship.
The Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) is responsible for the media, telecommunications, postal services and information society sectors in the country. It coordinates the implementation of the “Digital Switzerland” Strategy (see chapter 2.4) amongst others. Its place is central in the media landscape as digitalisation takes place, for example by pushing previously printed press to online versions.
Media pluralism in the digital era
Since 2010, the number of paid printed newspapers is decreasing, even though the number of readers is stable. According to the Federal Statistics Office, in 2019 the number of readers accessing information or news sites through online platforms jumped to 77%. The consequences of the digital transformation on the Swiss media landscape are a considerable slump in advertising and audience revenues, combined with job cuts, the merging of editorial offices and a decline in media diversity, which is particularly evident in the regions.
In 2020, in order to improve the framework conditions for the media and to promote a diverse offering in the regions, the Federal Council decided to support the media with a package of measures. It was adopted by Parliament in 2021 (a total of 120 million CHF) and includes, among other things, more money for cheaper delivery of daily and weekly newspapers; for the first time, money for online media; and finally, more support for the media system as a whole – for news agencies or for the training of media professionals.
 Federal Statistical Office: Erhebung zur Internetnutzung – Kommunikation und Information 2004-2019 (2020)