"I would miss every advertising franc that could no longer be invested in a Swiss medium"
In the upcoming referendum, Swiss voters will decide on the package of measures in favor of the Swiss media. The bill provides for the strengthening of domestic media through various (financial) measures (see infobox below).
The Federal Council and Parliament recommend a yes vote, as do the industry associations KS/CS Kommunikation Schweiz, SWA Schweizer Werbe-Auftraggeberverband and the publishers' associations SCHWEIZER MEDIEN, MEDIAS SUISSES and STAMPA SVIZZERA. But what does the bill entail from the advertising industry's point of view? We spoke to Stefan Wabel, Managing Director of the SWISS MEDIA Publishers Association.
Mr. Wabel, on February 13, Switzerland will vote on the package of measures in favor of the Swiss media. Why is this financial support needed at all?
The Swiss media perform an important social and governmental function: They inform the population every day with reliable and relevant information. They ask critical questions. They ensure diversity of opinion and facilitate important debates. In short, independent media are the foundation of our direct democracy. At the same time, private Swiss media companies have come under enormous pressure in recent years. On the one hand, due to drastically declining advertising revenues, on the other hand, due to rising costs for distribution and paper. Added to this are necessary, cost-intensive investments in digital transformation in order to transfer the business model to a new, digital world. That's why the Federal Council and Parliament passed the seven-year bridging funding. If this is now rejected, the pressure on the media will increase further. With the consequence that services will be cut or prices increased. In addition, important investments for the necessary digital transformation cannot be made.
So much for the media's point of view. But to what extent is the adoption of the media package important for the advertising industry?
The media package strengthens quality journalism, the supply of information and media diversity in Switzerland. Or expressed from the advertiser's point of view: On the one hand, the media package ensures diversity of supply and reach in order to reach the desired target group - and this at local, regional or national level. On the other hand, the media package ensures credible environments in which advertising is noticed. Be it in print media, online media or even local radio and regional television. And finally, the media package strengthens democracy. Our society and the economy benefit from this in equal measure.
What would a rejection of the package mean for advertisers in concrete terms?
A "No" to the media package will weaken the current supply of information and media diversity. For advertisers, this means less choice, less reach, less attractive advertising environments and less innovation.
So do you notice that companies are becoming more aware again in connection with their social responsibility that they also contribute to diversity of opinion and quality journalism with their advertising dollars, or is it only the return on marketing that counts?
It's a fact that advertising revenues make an important contribution to financing journalism. This awareness is certainly present, even if the achievement of advertising and communication goals is the top priority for every advertising client. That is understandable. But especially in the regions, the value of regionally anchored media is certainly recognized. After all, they are an irreplaceable platform and voice for an entire region, including companies, SMEs and trade. And this immensely important function of the media is to be strengthened with the media package.
One last question: What regional print advertising would you miss if the referendum went through and the local paper from your community was no longer produced in the future?
I would miss every advertising franc that could no longer be invested in a Swiss medium, be it print, online or radio and TV. After all, the migration of advertising revenues to global platforms also means that value creation flows out of Switzerland and abroad.
Thank you very much for the interview.
What does the package of measures in favor of the media include?
The media package is intended to supplement the tried-and-tested press subsidies that have been in place for decades with new measures and expand them by CHF 100 million per year. In addition, a maximum of 51 million Swiss francs will come from the existing radio and television levy. The subsidies will support private print and online media, as well as regional radio and TV stations. In addition, there are general measures for the industry as a whole (Keystone-SDA news agency, Swiss Press Council, journalist training) as well as support for publications by associations, foundations and political parties.
Supported Swiss media landscape