Switzerland 4006
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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Swiss Confederation
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 7,283,274


Language(s): German (official)
63.7%, French (official)
19.2%, Italian (official)
7.6%, Romansch 0.6%,
other 8.9%
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 41,290 sq km
GDP: 239,764 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 104
Total Circulation: 2,666,000
Circulation per 1,000: 454
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 124
Total Circulation: 723,000
Circulation per 1,000: 123
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 2,224 (Swiss Franc millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 52.20
Number of Television Stations: 115
Number of Television Sets: 3,310,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 454.5
Number of Cable Subscribers: 2,578,320
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 358.1
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 295,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 40.5
Number of Radio Stations: 119
Number of Radio Receivers: 7,100,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 974.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 3,600,000
Computers per 1,000: 494.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 2,134,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 293.0

Background & General Characteristics

General Description

Switzerland is a land-locked, Central European, Alpine nation that has enjoyed a remarkably long and continuous tradition of independence and political neutrality. The federal structure grants considerable autonomy to the cantons. With a population of 7.28 million and a total area of 15,940 square miles, Switzerland's ethnic and linguistic diversity reflects its location relative to three major neighboring countries: Germany, France, and Italy, respectively. Ethnically, the Swiss German-speaking population is in the majority (approximately 65 percent), followed by the French-speaking (18 percent) and Italian-speaking (10 percent) populations. In addition, a small Romansch ethnic and linguistic minority (approximately 1 percent of the population) enjoys the status of an official language. Roman Catholics constitute the largest religious denomination (46 percent), followed closely by Protestants (40 percent). This diversity, coupled with affluence, nearly universal literacy, and direct civic engagement has been fertile ground for a highly competitive and largely independent press.

Several additional factors combine to shape Switzer-land's diverse press. First, the mountainous terrain has historically fostered regionalism and a concomitant interest in locally based media. Second, the media landscape is characterized by linguistic plurality, even within a dominant linguistic region. Third, Switzerland's traditional status as an independent and neutral country in the heart of Europe has made it an attractive site for major international organizations. This host status has, in turn, supported a broad and diverse interest in national and international news. Fourth, the Swiss economy relies in key areas on international trade, a factor that increases interest in news media. Finally, civic literacy on important national and international issues is aided by the important role which regional and national referenda play in Swiss political affairs.

Traditionally the Swiss press has enjoyed high respect for its diversity and editorial integrity. The code for journalists is specified in the 1972 Declaration of Duties and Rights of Journalists, adopted by the Swiss Federation of Journalists and revised in 1994. The code emphasizes independence as a prerequisite to responsible journalistic action: "The right to information, to free speech and criticism is one of the basic human rights. The duties and rights of journalists derive from the public's right to know facts and opinions. The responsibility of journalists towards the public has priority over any other responsibility, particularly the responsibility to their employers and the state organs."

The Nature of the Audience

The Swiss press competes for a critical and demanding audience in the balanced delivery of local, regional, national, and international news to a population boasting an adult literacy rate of 99 percent and enjoying a relatively high per capita income, even by Western European standards. Swiss citizens on average spend approximately one-half hour per day reading print media. This figure has remained stable for the period 1985 to 2000. During the same time period TV viewing has increased from two to two and one-half hours per day; radio listening increased during the same period from two and one-half hours to three hours daily.

Although the distribution of Swiss newspapers and magazines reflects the linguistic and ethnic composition of the population, the German-language media predominate. There is no discernable religious orientation in the major newspapers and magazines. Special-interest publications represent the interests of various religious groups, including the Jüdische Rundschau. Other special-interest publications include a wide variety of technical and professional publications (e.g. Media Trend Journal ), business-oriented newspapers and magazines (e.g. CASH and Handelszeitung ), sports and leisure, lifestyle and fashion, art and culture, ecology, politics, and computers. The special-interest publications are almost all in magazine format.

Nature of the Journalism Industry

Switzerland has historically boasted the greatest number of newspapers published in proportion to its population and geographical size. In 1999 daily newspapers accounted for 2.65 million sales, a slight decline from the high of 2.85 million sold in 1991, but still above the total circulation of 2.61 million for 1980. Whereas circulation has remained relatively constant, both in terms of subscription and single-copy sales, the number of newspaper titles continues to decrease. Increased competition, concentration of ownership, mergers, and economic weakness have led to a steady decline in the number of daily newspaper titles, particularly during the last two decades of the twentieth century. The number of Swiss daily newspapers fell from 143 to 73 during the period from 1980 to 1999. The fact that total circulation has increased while titles have decreased underscores the extent to which diversity has been reduced during a period of continuing readership.

Almost all major Swiss cities have at least a local newspaper. In addition, the larger cities like Berne, Basle, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, and the other cantonal capitals also have regional, and often national, newspapers. The diversity and regional identification of Switzerland's population accounts for a relatively large number of newspaper titles, but circulation is often relatively small. For example, the Bischofszeller Nachrichten daily newspaper had a circulation of 829 in 2000. In the same year there were only 15 daily newspapers with a total circulation of more than 50,000. A total of 86 newspapers had a circulation of less than 5,000; 39 from 5,000 to 10,000; and 15 from 10,000 to 15,000. The circulation of the country's 10 largest newspapers is expected to increase from 1.4 million copies in 1994 to 1.6 million by 2003. For the same time period total circulation of the remaining newspapers is expected to drop from 450,000 to 330,000.

Most daily newspapers, which include those appearing at least four times per week, are published for morning delivery and sales. Newspapers generally cover local, national, and international news on a regular basis. Business, opinion-editorials, sports, and cultural sections are often grouped in separate sections for focused reading. German-language newspapers account for 8 of the 10 largest Swiss newspapers by circulation: Blick (314,200), Tages-Anzeiger (279,900), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (169,100), Berner Zeitung (135,700), Neue Luzerner Zeitung (133,500), Aargauer Zeitung (119,700), Basler Zeitung (115,400), and St. Galler Tagblatt (110,500), followed by the French-language 24 Heures (89,600) and Tribune de Genève (78,400). The most influential newspapers continue to be the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and the French-language Le Temps.

In view of the inherent linguistic diversity of the Swiss press, there is an extraordinarily rich diversity in foreign-language publications. This includes publications from the major neighboring countries of Austria, Germany, France, and Italy. In addition major international, English-language newspapers and editions are available. Several Swiss newspapers, information servers, and magazines have online services available in several languages. Swiss newspapers and magazines targeted to foreign-language readers include the Geneva News, and International Report, and the Portuguese-language Gazeta Lusófona.

Economic Framework

The economic climate of the Swiss print media is characterized by keen competition for advertising income. Newspapers are confronting increasing media concentrations in which advertising can reach a larger market segment. The concentration is a result of outright mergers, cooperative ventures, and the elimination of newspaper titles. In addition, electronic media compete with print media and advertising revenues. Most Swiss newspapers are now available online, at least in some summary form. Some titles, like Zürich Online, exist only as an electronic medium. Radio and television are also available as marketing vehicles.


The pressure toward concentration of print media offerings through fewer titles and broader circulation has benefited the advertising industry as revenues have grown in the face of declining placement duplication. Developments during the early 2000s suggest that increases in subscription rates and copy prices are counterproductive. Groupe Edipresse, a French-based conglomerate representing several influential French-language newspapers, including Le Matin,24 Heures, and Tribune de Geneve, experienced a significant drop in circulation when higher prices were introduced. Publishers increasingly try to offset subscription rate increases by offering discounted subscriptions to additional newspapers and/or magazines held by a media group. These tactics aimed toward mass circulation are aided by the continuing trend toward mergers and concentration of titles.

In addition to the challenges posed by increasing competition and concentration of titles, Swiss newspapers have also had to account for new online media technology that has expanded the competition from more traditional electronic media like radio and television. Nonetheless, the Swiss continue to spend more time with print media for information and analysis than with the electronic media. The feeling remains strong that random, independent access to the written word, and the ability to review print media at will, is necessary for comprehension and informed judgment.

The principal reason for the trend toward concentration of ownership is the keen competition for decreasing advertising revenues. In addition, mergers and the increasing use of shared editorial, feature, and supplement sections effectively standardize the editorial image in national and international news reporting. At the same time, coverage of regional and local news has become more competitive because these sections remain largely under the editorial control of the smaller newspapers.

Although it is difficult to assess accurately the relative size of the media conglomerates that have come to dominate the industry, there are a limited number of top media enterprises. Swiss-based Ringier AG controls Cash,SonntagsBlick, and Blick, the largest mass-circulation daily, as well as 11 magazines, 10 television programs, and a variety of media-linked web sites. Tamedia owns four newspapers, including the Tages-Anzeiger. In addition, Tamedia has a 49 percent share in the Berner Zeitung. Tamedia also controls seven magazines, a publishing company, and six regular newspaper supplements. The Basler Mediengruppe has expanded from its foundational newspaper, the daily Basler Zeitung, to include more than a dozen publishing entities as well as local and smaller regional newspapers. Mediax AG controls seven special-interest magazines.

Consolidation of newspaper titles is exemplified by groups such as the Neue Luzerner Zeitung AG, which is in turn controlled by LZ Medien Holding. The Neue Luzerner Zeitung AG not only publishes its flagship newspaper, the Neue Luzerner Zeitung, but also five regional editions. The NZZ-Gruppe has similarly expanded from its original newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, to include media holdings in St. Gallen and Berne.

Swiss newspapers are represented in all major categories of media publication, including full-featured national and regional daily newspapers, regional and local weekly editions, newspapers published three to five times per week, as well as free newspapers. The latter, principally Metropol and 20 Minuten, are small-format newspapers distributed on public transportation. The remaining free newspapers account for almost 70 percent of the total Swiss titles published in 2001. Together, all types of newspapers accounted for 22.6 percent of the Swiss print market. The remaining titles are distributed among consumer-oriented magazines (2.7 percent), special-interest magazines (38 percent), and trade/ professional publications (36.5 percent).

There is no official government newspaper, and political newspapers are confined to informational and policy publications issued by or on behalf of political interest groups, including most prominently environmental protection and agricultural organizations. With the notable exception of the daily mass tabloid Blick and its Sunday edition, SonntagsBlick, newspapers address a largely educated readership with an active interest in information and analysis.

Advertisers exert no editorial control as such. The economic incentive to concentrate ad placement for maximum geographic and demographic exposure does, however, indirectly affect editorial content and marketing decisions. In this regard the WEMF AG, an advertising media research company, and the VSW, an association of Swiss ad agencies, provide regular industry analyses on the Swiss print and broadcast media. The reliance on analyses rests in part on the fact that Swiss newspapers still account for approximately half of all advertising market.

Eighty percent of daily newspapers in Switzerland are sold through subscription. The remaining twenty percent are sold along with large variety of local, national, and international newspapers and magazines at newsstands. The demand for a supply of newsprint has been relatively stable since 1995, when the total consumption of newsprint was 308,000 metric tons. The price of news-print for June 2002 was set at US $465.00 per ton.

The Swiss labor market is characterized by stability, high wages, benefits, and productivity. Strikes are rare, and there have been no organized strikes in the print or broadcast media since 1985. Labor protest generally takes a subtler and less confrontational form. In 1997, for example, journalists for the newspaper Journal de Genève and its rival, le Nouveau Quotidien, protested the proposed merger of the two by withholding their bylines from articles. The labor union Comedia represents approximately 20,000 employees in the media and publishing industry within the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions.

Swiss printing technology is world renowned. Pre-press, press, and postpress technology uses software extensively for digital data processing, archiving, layout, and design. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, for example, utilizes Ocè DemandStream printing technology to publish its European editions.

Press Laws

Constitutional & Legislative Provisions

Swiss legislation traditionally treats the press differently to preserve its diversity. For example, the 1995 Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints on Competition requires that the Competition Commission be notified in the event of planned mergers or takeovers that exceed a set turnover limitation. This limit is dramatically lower for businesses involved in print or broadcast media, which affects the ability to expand markets through concentration of media holdings.

Swiss press laws are anchored constitutionally and guarantee specifically "freedom of the press, radio and television, and of other forms of public telecasting of productions

and information." The constitution furthermore prohibits censorship, and guarantees editorial secrecy. The constitution furthermore stipulates that radio and television legislation is a federal matter. Freedom of the press (i.e., the ability to gather and publish information and opinions freely) is also traditionally understood in Switzerland to protect the right to establish newspapers. This reflects historical support for the intrinsic value of a diverse, pluralistic press landscape. In view of changing economic circumstances, the predisposition toward 'more is better' may perhaps come under review.

Several laws and legislative initiatives have an indirect bearing on press freedom in its economic sense. This includes the restrictive provisions of the 1995 Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints on Competition. Also significant is the 1986 Law Against Unfair Competition, which provides for third-party liability in the event of alleged unfair competition. This has led in one notable case to legal suppression of an article on the grounds that the journalist had not reported fairly on supposed health risks associated with microwave ovens. A 1998 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights was issued against Switzerland for its literal and restrictive interpretation of unfair competition. Discussion is ongoing regarding the 1992 Federal Law on Data Protection. At issue is whether journalists may refuse access to confidential information. The debate seeks to reconcile the professional right of the investigative journalist and the right to privacy.

The extent to which press plurality and diversity continue to be prized is illustrated by current discussions about draft legislation for a so-called Diversity Law (Vielfaltsgesetz), which is designed to strengthen the economic viability of the press. The draft includes a provision for generous postal delivery subsidies in the case of newspapers and magazines.


In 1979 the Swiss Federal Chancery issued specific guidelines, revised 1990, regarding the accreditation of journalists seeking official status when covering the bicameral legislature. Otherwise, there are no specific licensing or accreditation laws governing newspapers or journalists. Guidelines for editorial and journalistic practice are established by the major national and international professional associations to which the majority of newspapers and professional journalists adhere. These include the liberal Swiss Union of Journalists (Schweizerische Journalistinnen und Journalisten Union), and oldest professional association, the Swiss Federation of Journalists (Schweizer Verband der Journalistinnen und Journalisten), whose members subscribe to a specific "Declaration of Rights and Duties of Journalists." The Swiss Press Council (Schweizer Presserat) is available to hear private and professional complaints involving journalistic ethics. In all matters of legal adjudication, the Swiss judiciary is independent.


The freedom of the press is not infringed upon by censorship. The press takes its role as a critically analytical intermediary between the public and private sectors seriously. The diversity of languages and regions reflected in the Swiss press virtually assures that news cannot be suppressed, even if such an attempt were made. Documented infringement is indirect and extremely rare. When a BBC-produced documentary on the Holocaust criticized Switzerland's role during World War II, there was strong protest from Switzerland, but in only one case did a right-wing Swiss member of parliament shut down a television channel in response to popular protest.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Given the relatively great dependence of the Swiss economy on foreign trade, as well as its historical attractiveness for international organizations, the attitude toward foreign media is liberal and characterized by keen interest in European and global affairs. This attitude extends to the ownership of domestic media, which is a matter of economic forces rather than specific legal restriction. Foreign journalists enjoy rights consistent with the exercise of their profession in open, democratic societies.

Events following attack on the New York World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, affected the Swiss press. In October 2001, a European-based correspondent for an Arabic newspaper was jailed temporarily as he entered Switzerland to cover an international conference. Upon release the journalist was expelled from Switzerland. Such rare instances of interference must be seen against the background of a generally zealous attitude toward safeguarding the domestic peace, particularly in view of a perceived international terrorist threat.

Although Switzerland remains reluctant about full membership in European and international organizations, owing largely to concerns about independence and neutrality, it participates actively in most international organizations and is a signatory to key international treaties and agreements.

News Agencies

The Swiss Press Agency (Schweizerische Depeschenagentur) is the nonprofit, private national news agency. It issues reports on politics, business, culture, and sports in German, French, and Italian. Almost all Swiss and two dozen foreign media subscribe to its services.

Broadcast Media

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (Schweizerische Radio und Fernsehgesellschaft; SBC) is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programs. The management and organization of radio and television is based on Article 93 of the Swiss Federal Constitution. In addition, the act mandates independent complaint review. The 1991 Federal Radio and Television Law clarifies the mandate in greater detail. With respect to broadcast media, Article 3 states:

Radio and Television shall contribute to education and cultural development, to the free formation of opinion, and to the entertainment of the listeners and viewers. They shall take into account the particularities of the country and the needs of the Cantons. They shall present events factually, and reflect diverse opinions fairly and adequately. … The independence of radio and television and the autonomy of their programming are guaranteed. … The situation and the role of other media, in particular the press, shall be taken into account. … It shall be possible to submit complaints about programs to an independent authority.

The SBC has recently changed its logo to highlight its multilingual and multicultural mission and audience from the rather prosaic SRG to SRG SSR idée suisse.

The SBC is legally empowered to issue licenses and to levy license fees, based on radio and television set ownership, for the full financing of radio and partial financing of television. It is also charged with providing all linguistic regions with quality and diverse programming. In 2000 revenues from licensing fees amounted to SF 1.06 billion, whereas television advertising amounted to SF 370 million. Increases in licensing fees are subject to legislative approval. Because the government is reluctant to give the impression of limiting access to broadcast media through excessive licensing fees, the SBC traditionally depends in part on public financing.

SBC studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios, which provide content for nine stations. The program content distribution for 2000 included 56 percent light music, 16 percent classical music, and 10 percent news and current affairs. In addition 49 private, noncommercial FM radio stations broadcast in local and regional markets. The Association of Swiss Private Radios (Verband Schweizer Privatradios) represents 25 private radio broadcasters. International broadcast services are provided in nine languages through swissinfo, an affiliate of the SBC. SBC also owns a controlling stake in Swiss TXT, which provides teletext information and news.

Three television studios, located in Geneva, Lugano, and Zurich, produce six independent programs, two for each linguistic region, as well as special programs in the Romansch language. The SBC also maintains partnership and programming relationships with cable television stations, including CNN, 3SAT, Eurosport, TV5, and arte. Access to domestic and foreign broadcasting is broad thanks to a 93 percent cable and satellite penetration rate, giving the average Swiss household access to more than 20 TV channels.

The market for private, nationally broadcast television channels is hindered by the relatively small yet highly competitive market. Nonetheless, increasing pressure to deregulate the broadcast media opened opportunities during the late 1990s. One channel, Tele 24, went on the air in 1998 and shut down two years later. Another private cable station, TV3, lost financial backing from the Tamedia concern in the early 2000s, placing its future solvency in question. In part financing difficulties are a result of Swiss demographics. Although Switzerland has high advertising expenditures, the penetration data for television lags behind the print media.

Electronic News Media

The Internet as a media infrastructure dramatically impacted the Swiss media landscape during last years of the twentieth century and continues to shape the country's media into the twenty-first century. Data for 2001 indicated that 59.6 percent of Swiss homes have Internet access. More than a dozen full-service webzines and online journals have established themselves. In addition, most national and the larger regional newspapers are now also available online. Of the top 20 media Web sites in Switzerland, 4 sites (all online editions of newspapers) account for one third of the total hits. These include Edicom, with links to the newspapers Le Matin,Tribune de

Genève, and 24 heures, as well as an online version of Swiss TXT. Bluewin AG provides full Internet services for residential and small-business customers via its bluewin portal. Internet security concerns are addressed specifically through SecuMedia AG, which coordinates environmental-protection, safety, and security media via its SiLine portal. Media consulting businesses have expanded their services correspondingly, including tracking top Web sites in Switzerland.

The sobering economic reality of online media has forced a basic reconsideration of content, marketing, and editorial-policy issues with respect to the press. For service and product providers the Internet represents an opportunity to develop and expand a customer base. However, for the vast majority of media providers, the Internet creates new problems, such as content duplication and further diluted advertising revenues.

Education & Training

Review of Education in Journalism

The Swiss educational system is geared, particularly at the secondary level, toward a distinction between vocational education and preparation for post-secondary academic learning. Until recently few secondary courses of vocational study were designed specifically for preparing journalists in the print and broadcasting media. In 1995 a directory of professions was established, which permits registered journalists and editors to designate themselves professionally.

Entry into the journalistic professions generally require graduation from a vocational, secondary, or post-secondary school. An internship in an appropriate setting

is also usually required. Additional courses of study are available at several universities, institutes, and technical colleges. The required period of study may be shortened for university-level graduates. In rare cases, direct employment in the print or broadcast media is possible.

In view of Switzerland's federal structure, cantonal universities vary greatly with respect to curricula, requirements for a course of study, and tuition. The technical universities in Zurich and Lausanne are federal institutions. The major courses of journalism and media study available at Swiss universities include:

  • Institute for Media Studies at the University of Basle (Institut für Medienwissenschaften);
  • Institute for Media Studies at the University of Berne (Institut für Medienwissenschaft);
  • Institute for Journalism and Communication Study at the University of Fribourg (Institut für Journalistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft);
  • Communication and Media Studies at the University of Geneva (Sciences de la communication et des médias);
  • Institute for Mass Communication Sociology at the University of Lausanne (Institut de sociologie des communications de masse);
  • Communication Science Department at the University of Lugano (Facoltà di scienze della comunicazione);
  • Institute for Communication and Culture at the University of Lucern (Institut für Kommunikation und Kultur);
  • Institute for Journalism and Communication at the University of Neuchâtel (Institut de journalisme et communication);
  • Institute for Publishing and Media Research at the University of Zurich (Institut für Publizistik und Medienforschung);
  • Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen (Institut für Medien und Kommunikationsmanagement).

The innovative approach to journalism education and the rise of new, electronic media is exemplified by the University of Lugano, which offers a Swiss Master of Public Relations with an emphasis on multimedia and comprehensive competencies in journalistic, technical, and commercial areas.

In-house training has been a common feature of journalistic education, and the Schweizer Presse (Swiss Press) umbrella organization for newspaper and magazine publishers supports its own training facility, the Medieninstitut (Media Institute), located in Zurich. The media conglomerate Ringier AG has been offering training in its own Journalistenschule (School of Journalism) since 1974. The Medienausbildungszentrum MAZ (Media Training Center), established in 1984 and located near Lucern, is the largest journalism school. Issues of certification and continuing training are also coordinated by the group, Qualität im Journalismus (Quality in Journalism), founded in 1999.

The relatively rapid and diverse proliferation of specific educational opportunities for Swiss journalists is explained in part by a historical sense that no particular training is required for journalists and editors. As Andreas Doepfner, editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wrote in a study for the European Journalism Centre (Bierhoff): "In our newsroom, we traditionally have put emphasis on personal responsibility for further orientation and individual development. Nothing is mandatory, but a lot is possible. You now notice that people increasingly start using the opportunities on offer, and especially value seminars which offer in-depth background to existing expertise."

Journalistic Awards & Prizes

In keeping with the Swiss tradition of diversity, and in view of the need to promote and recognize professionalism and quality, the Swiss offer a comparatively broad spectrum of awards and prizes. Whereas some are distinctly partisan, as indicated by their sponsors, several seek to recognize the impact of new electronic media and thereby to expand the boundaries of quality and professional journalism. It is significant to note that several of the prizes are designed specifically to recognize, and hence promote, the work of young journalists. In this way, the publicity that comes with the awards also acts to stimulate professional development. The awards include:

  • ALSTOM Journalism Award, sponsored by ALSTOM AG and recognizing reporting on energy-related topics;
  • Prix Media SANW, offered by the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences;
  • Prix Media SANW, sponsored by the Swiss Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences;
  • Forschungsreportagen-Wettbewerb (Research Reporting Competition), sponsored by the University of Berne and honoring reporting on university research;
  • Nationaler Medienpreis zur Förderung junger Journalisten, sponsored by the Swiss Association of Catholic Journalists to recognize young journalists;
  • Medienpreis idée suisse, awarded by the SBC;
  • Qualität im Journalismus sponsors various media awards and prizes;
  • Weltwoche-Preis für junge Journalisten, awarded to young journalists by the weekly newspaper, Weltwoche;
  • BZ-Preis für Lokaljournalismus, awarded for local journalism by the Berner Zeitung;
  • Espace-Media-Preis Swiss Press Photo, awarded for photo journalism by the media conglomerate;
  • Pharmacia & Upjohn Journalistenpreis, awarded for pharmaceutically oriented reporting;
  • Medienpreis Aargau/Solothurn, awarded for excellence in regional reporting;
  • Katholischer Medienpreis, awarded by the Media Commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference;
  • AgroPreis, sponsored by the Schweizer Bauernver-band (Swiss Farmers Association);
  • Journalistenpreis, awarded by the Emmentalische Mobiliar insurance company;
  • Aeskulap-Journalistenpreis, awarded for reporting on alternative health care;
  • Zürcher Journalistenpreis, awarded by the Zurich Press Club;
  • Von Roll Award, for contributions promoting the relationship between journalism and Swiss industry;

Major Journalistic Associations & Organizations

The major trade union associations represent primarily the employment interests of journalists. In addition, two distinct trends have emerged in the development of professional organizations. One addresses the professional status of working principally involved with new electronic media (e.g., //syndikat). A second trend addresses the need for quality control and professionalism in the journalistic profession (e.g., Qualität im Journalismus). The major journalistic and media organizations include:

  • Schweizer Verband der Journalistinnen und Journalisten (Swiss Association of Journalists);
  • Comedia Mediengewerkschaft (Comedia Media Union), affiliated with the Swiss Trade Union Council;
  • Schweizer Syndikat Medienschaffender (Swiss Media Employees Union), also a member of the Swiss Trade Union Council;
  • //syndikat, representing online employees and free-lancers;
  • Verband Schweizer Fachjournalisten (Association of Swiss Specialized Journalists), representing the interests of journalists and editors of trade and professional publications;
  • Zürcher Presseverein (Zurich Press Club);
  • Verein Freier Berufsjournalistinnen und journalisten Zürich (Zurich Freelance Journalists Club);
  • Schweizer Klub für Wissenschaftsjournalismus (Swiss Scientific Journalism Club);
  • Schweizer Presserat (Swiss Press Council);
  • Qualität im Journalismus (Quality in Journalism);
  • Verband Schweizer Presse (Swiss Press Association), representing the interests of publishers.


Given Switzerland's small geographical size and population, it has a remarkably rich press tradition. Several factors have contributed to this tradition. Switzerland's neutrality has promoted a stable political, social, and economic system, particularly throughout the 20th century. Its population is well educated and affluent, ranking regularly first in economic and demographic indicators among Western European nations. Switzerland's location in Central Europe places it at the crossroads of three major ethnic and linguistic groups: German, French, and Italian. Respect for independence and social and political stability help to explain the official status that Switzerland continues to accord the three languages. This intrinsic acknowledgment of ethnic and linguistic diversity extends even to the numerically small Romansch community. The traditional isolation of regions, based on linguistic differences and the nature of Swiss geography, has also fostered a deep identification with locality. The emphasis on cantonal autonomy in fundamental matters further underscores a strong regional identification, and hence a relative sense of independence from centralized authority. Swiss neutrality has made it both an economic haven in turbulent times (e.g. international banking) and a host site for various transnational organizations (e.g. the International Red Cross).

Taken together, these factors help to explain the extraordinary diversity of the Swiss press landscape. A wide spectrum of local, regional, and national newspapers, serving distinct linguistic groups, continues to meet the strong demand from a highly educated, affluent, and independent readership that still relies on printed media for information, analysis, and orientation. The trend toward concentration of ownership and newspaper shutdowns is driven primarily by economic factors rather than by political considerations. Freedom of the press is taken both literally and figuratively in the broadest sense of the term.

In contrast to the print media, the Swiss broadcast media has always been under greater control of the federal government, particularly in the areas of financing and licensing. Although the Swiss market is lucrative on a per capita basis for commercial broadcast investors, overall market size and supplemental revenue sources primarily generated by advertising continue to undermine the profitability of private commercial television. In any event, an extensive cable network allows most Swiss access to programming from neighboring countries.

Increasing access to electronic media, particularly via the Internet, has further expanded the availability of news and information sources. Here, too, economic factors are largely responsible for the changing fortunes of online service and information providers.

Trends & Prospects for the Media

The trend in the print media continues to move toward fewer editorially independent newspapers. This will increase pressure on the remaining newspapers to cut costs, increase circulation, or to tailor their content more carefully to a specifically targeted readership. The danger in this approach is the potential sacrifice of journalistic and editorial integrity to increase profitability. The focus on professionalizing journalism through training and adherence to professional guidelines will have a positive impact on the quality of journalism, but it has the potential to further erode the viability of small, local publications. The revelations about Switzerland's role in World War II (i.e., holding the financial assets of Holocaust victims in Swiss banks) underscores the need for a responsible press that can monitor and guide the public debate on sensitive issues.

The broadcast media is moving toward increasing deregulation to address the current disincentives to private commercial radio and television. At the very least, the essentially monopolistic control of the SBC will continue to be debated.

Electronic media will continue to grow as a media infrastructure. Given traditional Swiss preoccupation with privacy, it is likely that data protection will play a major role in the national debate about the rights and responsibilities of various media.

Finally, access and regulation issues will require increasing coordination with Switzerland's European neighbors as the debate about Switzerland's entry into the European Union intensifies. The process of adapting to the changing realities of the various media markets is likely to be slow, fraught with problems of coordinating various cantonal and federal initiatives, but it is likely to be thorough and based upon informed consent. In this sense, the Swiss press will initiate and referee the debate about changing itself.

Significant Dates

  • 1999: The World Association of Newspapers conference is held in Switzerland; metropol and 20 Minuten, new free newspapers targeting commuters, are introduced to the Swiss market.
  • 2001: Friedrich Leibacher storms the Swiss parliament building, killing 14 people before committing suicide.
  • 2002: Switzerland's new president formally begins his duties with a call for a serious national debate on joining the United Nations; the Swiss national airline, Swissair, ceases operation.


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Siegfried Christoph

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User Contributions:

I agree with this The trend in the print media continues to move toward fewer editorially independent newspapers. Can anyone disgree with that statemant? Of course This will increase pressure on the remaining newspapers to cut costs, increase circulation, or to tailor their content more carefully to a specifically targeted readership. The danger in this approach is the potential sacrifice of journalistic and editorial integrity to increase profitability. This is sad but true in these times. The focus on professionalizing journalism through training and adherence to professional guidelines will have a positive impact on the quality of journalism, but it has the potential to further erode the viability of small, local publications. The world is moving towards digital, C'mon these days we twitter the news! Why not twitter write these days? It's coming soon, i can feel it. ELISHIA WINDFOHR
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Which is the public service in Switzerland provides the regulations for media and especially electronic media (mainly electronic newspapers).
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