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The Invisible Scissors

Media Freedom and Censorship in Switzerland

Marc Höchli

A watchdog, a genuine fourth estate working in the service of a free and liberal democracy, diverse and discursive: this is what we expect of the media. This is how most of the media present themselves: altruistic, serving the interests of res publica and public opinion and promoting democratic discourse. And this is how most Swiss people see their media.
Yet, does the shining image correspond to reality? Or are the much-praised journalistic Elysium of Switzerland and the diversity and quality of the Swiss media tarnished? And to what extent is freedom of the media guaranteed?
This research into the mass media of Switzerland highlights the current threats to the freedom of the media and identifies the scissors of censorship. It scrutinizes the power of advertising, the battle for market share, the infiltration of PR agencies into editorial offices, the quality of journalistic training, self-censorship and infotainment as the supreme credo. The findings show that freedom of the media in Switzerland is severely jeopardised.

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11 Print Media 172

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172 11 Print Media 11.1 A nation of newspaper readers Switzerland is a nation of newspaper readers. Nowhere else in Europe is there such a high density of newspapers – almost three times higher than in Great Britain and four times as high as in Ger- many (Meier 2001, p.3ff.). In Switzerland, when people talk about “media products”, they usually mean newspapers. The newspaper is the interested Swiss citizen’s daily bread. In a 2004 survey by the Research Institute gfs (2004/2005) , 58 percent of respondents said they kept themselves up to date on current events by reading a daily newspaper. The second-most frequent source of information was the Swiss television station SRG, with a user level of 53 percent. SRG radio programmes served as a source of information for 16 percent. In most cases (unlike in Great Britain, for example262) the daily newspaper is a locally or regionally oriented publication. Apart from the freesheet 20 Minuten distributed in the conurbations of Zurich, Bern and Basel, there are in fact only three newspapers in German- speaking Switzerland with a supra-regional or even international readership, namely: the tabloid Blick published by the leading Swiss publishers Ringier, the Tages-Anzeiger published by Tamedia AG, and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung published by the NZZ Group. Even if the editors of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung refer to their paper – in an attempt at self-irony – as an “international rag”, it is actually one of the best international newspapers in circulation263. It is no coincidence that all...

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