A common project of the Swiss Coalition for Cultural Diversity and the Swiss Commission for UNESCO
The Media working group considered the protection and promotion of cultural diversity, especially in such a small area as diverse as Switzerland, “a nation formed by the people’s will”, as a public matter of great importance. The media are part of the said diversity: as players they fulfil the very real role of multipliers at the service of society as a whole.
The rapid changes in the media and the media landscape require pragmatic action, combined with a high degree of flexibility – As several of the relevant issues concern other creative media in a similar manner, the Media working group divided its proposals and demands for the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions into an interdisciplinary area and a media-specific area.
Everyone is proud of the diversity of Switzerland, but what this actually means is hardly discussed. In general, awareness of diversity is limited to the existence of Romansh language. In everyday life, politicians and government at all levels leave cultural diversity and thus a significant aspect of Swiss identity to chance, namely: interest groups of various cultural genres, such as environmental non-governmental organizations, other private initiatives.
A Federal Office for Cultural Diversity (FOCD) would be a body without executive powers, its mandate would be to act as an advocate for cultural diversity, independent, objective, persistent, unswerving. The FOCD would not be a bureaucratic monster that would eloquently and passively manage rather than stimulate; it would not compete with private organizations, it would complement and support them. The FOCD would:
a) serve as an advisory body to be consulted on for municipal, cantonal and federal projects having an impact
- on linguistic diversity;
- on artistic activities in the schools under pressure from PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment ) and other head-driven studies;
- on social diversity, for example, in the tax haven Canton Zug, where out-of-place foreigners (with no interest in integration, but financial clout) settle for a limited time, thus pushing up rents sky-high so that less financially well-endowed Zug residents are forced to leave. Or in Andermatt, where farmers, due to owners selling their land to the Sawiris’ consortium, can no longer manage to live and some must leave for the Jura.
b) work closely with the Cantons, when it comes to ideas and programmes for schools, it now concerns the integration of children/families from other cultural backgrounds or which were referred to earlier as “local colour”.
c) see itself as an advocate of cultural diversity when, for example the Spatial Planning Act is undermined and threatened with the reconstruction of entire landscapes as industrial wastelands, special zones for the super rich or speculator “resorts”, to protect mountain landscapes from being overexploited, or where commercial myopia replace recreational areas or protected landscapes will be sacrificed to the production of energy.
Switzerland as a financial centre has an affinity to numbers. In the case of cultural statistics, those who seek detailed information on quantifiable aspects of the much-vaunted cultural diversity, learn about the culture of abdication.
Since the beginning of the Internet revolution, the remuneration of creators and authors has become, de facto, negotiable. The Media working group has been concerned with the effects of this quasi-natural trend that represents an unhealthy development for those affected in the media industry. It is, however, fully understood that this issue is of vital importance for all creators. The media experts recommend:
Each year, the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology sponsors universities of applied sciences and arts with millions from the innovation pot of the Confederation. This CTI cash flow, named after the former Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI, excludes the cultural sector. Money for technology without content, for innovation’s sake, is a bad investment. It is time to adapt the CTI formula to new realities: culture – technology – innovation.
The study published on July 1 this year by the Swiss Press Association on media usage shows how the media budgets of individual households are continuing to steadily move away from print media to the telecom/IT area: Less is being spent on (printed) content and more is being spent on access to and use of the new media. The consequences for private publishers has been dramatic falls in advertising revenues, mergers, discontinuing of titles at an alarming pace with resulting deterioration in journalism/editorial standards. This in turn necessarily means massive losses in quality and fewer journalists and thus less cultural diversity. Editors and publishing houses are concerned about the countless redundant employees and those taking early retirement and their families. Still, not much can be done by the State with respect to this crisis; Switzerland does not believe in direct support for private print media. In any case, the preservation of questionable structures and the financial security of quality titles are usually a matter for private owners.
However, the public sector could make quite an important contribution by supporting efficient and effective print media by means of indirect press promotion, e.g. through targeted subsidies for postal charges. This sometimes represents up to 70 percent of third-party costs that endanger the existence of small and medium-sized media companies and association newspapers. Impressive as the figures are, Parliament remains unimpressed: three years ago, the Federal Parliament, in its mania for saving, reduced down to a paltry 20 million its indirect support to the press through the subsidy of infrastructure. A classic case of saving in the wrong place: by the end of 2007, the Federal government paid 80 million Swiss Francs a year just to the Postal service to cover the deficit caused by the preferred postage rates granted to subscribed newspapers.
As already stipulated in earlier concessions, the Confederation also stipulates in the concession in force today with respect to the SRG SSR idée suisse (Swiss public broadcasting network) that it must fulfil a cultural mission with the licence fees it receives. This requirement also applies to private providers that may benefit from the new fee pot. The commitment to the cultural offers is not challenged but has always given rise to discussions about the “how” and especially the “when”. The Media working group feels that the fact that those interested in culture must regularly wait until late evening for Swiss television to fulfil “its” mission is discriminatory. Midnight transmission times are only for cultural enthusiasts. This is shown by the ratings. But as ratings in the public service media are becoming increasingly important, the cat is biting its own tail.
On the other hand, there is a persistent rumour that culture kills ratings and, therefore, could never be programmed in “Prime Time”. This is not true, for example, in the case of “Culture Time” on 3sat channel: the programme, regularly broadcast at 7.20 pm, includes Swiss contributions and has a good audience. That supply stimulates demand’ is well-known. It is to be suspected that an attractive offer of cultural programmes in the early evening would not drive away regular viewers but could actually attract more.
Since last year, the fulfilment of the cultural mandate has come under heightened scrutiny: SRG – and other providers who benefit from licence fees – now have to satisfy four quality criteria: credibility, responsibility, relevance, and journalistic professionalism in addition to the established performance mandate that includes information, entertainment, education and cultural components. They are required to create their own content and standards to meet the criteria and are obliged to publish the results and to regularly audit their fulfilment.
The Radio and Television Act (RTVG) and the concession based on it, stipulates that the SRG also has a special responsibility for the integration of the foreign resident population. After intense preparation, in April 2008 for the first time in its history, the SRG arranged an “Integration Week”. This involved all SRG stations throughout Switzerland, each reflecting their individual character, culture and language. Cultural diversity was brought to life; national productions were deliberately omitted. The response to this Integration Week was mostly positive, the actual consequences will inevitably appear only in the medium and long term.
The development and access to transmission networks for the supply of electronic media are perennial. Although convinced of the need for a strong public service, the Media working group cannot take pleasure in the monopolistic behaviour of Swisscom, at the expense of some very profitable customers. This mandate of basic services to the population should not be determined as Swisscom sees fit. No matter how good the offer of electronic media is, or whether the pricing policy is appropriate or whether access is guaranteed, the no man’s land is falling increasingly under the sway of numerically powerful groups because traditional offerings such as newspapers are disappearing and one does not know what to do with the new media. This applies to people and especially to women who may have never used computing and the Internet in their careers. And it also applies to those for whom the computer is the main working tool, but who do not want to miss the tactile experience of holding a book or a newspaper in their hands.
When the Competition Commission COMCO considered the expansion of Tamedia from Zurich up to Lake Geneva, they gave the green light after just a short time. Legally, in their opinion, there was nothing against the deal. A political comment on this and other mergers is denied to the Commission, but media policy in this very delicate area even led the COMCO to voluntarily waive its right to impose conditions of a substantial nature by insisting e.g. on respect for the cultural differences between German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland.
In short, structural policy has always been about creativity and culture and this must be in the positive sense.
Bruno Bucher. New media. firstname.lastname@example.org
Josefa Haas. Director Medieninstitut. email@example.com
Jürg Isler. TV Editor. Swiss Television. firstname.lastname@example.org
Wolf Ludwig. Media Journalist. email@example.com
Tiziana Mona (Commissioner). TV Journalist; SRG SSR idée suisse. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosalie Roggen. Independent journalist, press/TV. email@example.com