According to a federal report, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) must keep transforming and adapting to the new digital landscape that is affecting public media globally.
swiss public media
le idée suisse. Image: Falk Lademann/Creative Commons

Public broadcasting has recently been in upheaval all over Europe, with Poland and Bosnia under the radar for government interference and the potential suspension of public broadcasting, making the long-term survival of their services unclear. This upheaval is exacerbated by the challenges posed by the new digital landscape, with public media having to readjust and adapt to these constant and fast changes. Swiss media is by no means an exception.

A report issued and adopted by the government last Friday affirmed that SBC should keep on transforming, adapting itself to the digitalised media landscape with a content that is geared towards the support of democracy. The report maintained general tones, indicating that public service media should be as inclusive as possible. In this effort, SBC should be multilingual, information-oriented and has to take account of all population groups, including the younger generation who increasingly turn to digital media to access news.

The report sees the digital sphere as an opportunity to transform and produce different types of news. With consumers now becoming producers, the study says it is now essential for SBC to encourage and include citizens’ involvement in the production of content. But news is not the only focus. The report actually highlights the contribution public media can make to education by providing didactic material for universities and schools.

However, the report did not come without critics. Its generalised approach was criticised by other groups for lacking in strategy and for being disappointing and incomplete. The criticism aligned itself with the conservative parties’ longstanding argument that sees the digital challenges as a reason to privatise public media services in Switzerland. Indeed, the conservative-right Swiss People’s Party recently argued that public media cost is no longer justifiable.  In spite of these pressures, this month the Swiss cabinet approved a new mandate for SBC and its international body,, for another four years.

Overall, the government’s report echoes the opinions of the Editor-in-Chief of, Larissa M. Bieler. “Switzerland,” she said in her editorial last month, “needs a public service media company that reflects the country in the 21st century.”

Her argument was supported by a study published by the think tank Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut (GDI). The report argued that, in critical times, SBC and public media in general can make the principle of direct democracy more concrete. “It is precisely at a time of upheaval in the media landscape,” Bieler said, “that the SBC has the opportunity to position itself as an instrument of democracy.”

The challenges that the new digital trend pose then, should not be an excuse to cut down public media, rather an opportunity for development and transformation. As the report says, the digitalisation of news can allow public media to fulfill its role “better than ever”.

Read the full report (available in German, French and Italian)