Against a further weakening of Switzer­land’s journalistic voice abroad

Written by Peter Schibli

Peter Schibli, Director SWI swissinfo. Photo: Marcel Grubenmann
Peter Schibli, Director SWI swissinfo. Photo: Marcel Grubenmann
Amid the rising tide of “fake news”, Swiss media has an ever-larger responsibility.

The Russian TV channel Russia Today, China’s CCTV channel and Arab channels such as Al Arabia and Al Jazeera are all being beefed up – and are manipulating the international community with anti-democratic “fake news”. Their goal is to destabilize the global community and foist the views of their backers and financial sponsors upon it. The more funding the world’s dictators invest in their international broadcasters and websites, the more dangerous the propaganda on the Internet will become.
The BBC and Deutsche Welle have been increasing their journalistic output, as London and Berlin appreciate the importance of exerting “soft power” via the media in the race for global communication supremacy.
And what is Switzerland doing? Cutting back.
For the Federal Council to trim the budget for its international media offering year after year is turning into a tradition – and an incomprehensible one at that. And yet the international remit encompassing TV5-Monde, 3Sat and the two online platforms Swissinfo.ch and tvsvizzera.it is not only successful but is inexpensive for the Confederation.
• The francophone channel TV5Monde, which broadcasts a large number of programmes produced by the French-Swiss TV channel RTS, reaches some 300 million households in 200 countries. Subtitled versions of shows such as the Teléjournal news programme and Temps présent are available on the Internet in various languages.
• The international, German-language arts channel 3sat broadcasts about 2.5 hours of important SRF programs – such as Tagesschau (news) or Sternstunde – every day. These broadcasts reach some 70 million households a day all over Europe.
• The 10-language Internet platform Swissinfo.ch focuses on characteristically Swiss topics such as direct democracy, federalism, migration, global climate change, Switzerland as a business location and banking issues. Swiss expats specifically use the features that are prepared to help them form an opinion on upcoming federal referenda. Swissinfo.ch communicates quintessential Swiss values such as liberty, peace, respect and tolerance to the global community.
• And finally, tvsvizzera.it is an Italian-language website with streaming content that delivers credible information for Italy and explains Swiss interests to a language zone in which they are often misunderstood.
A group of international broadcasters spearheaded by Swissinfo recently issued a declaration aimed at disseminating these values – which are an essential basis for a free society – and at reinforcing them through cooperation and synergies. The unanimously approved declaration is an appeal to the free world’s lawmaker to cultivate their countries’ journalistic output and accord it the priority it needs for exerting soft power.
In Switzerland, the Federal Council, National Council and Council of States are called upon to halt the continual weakening of the international mandate and – in the interests of Swiss foreign policy – to provide the four international journalistic offerings with the funding they need to fulfil this mandate. Only then can Switzerland continue to make itself heard, seen and read on the international stage.

Publication date: 26 October, 2017