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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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15 Playing with the Truth 244


244 15 Playing with the Truth 15.1 Economic necessity Attentiveness has become rare in a society that is saturated with information. In our so-called Information Age380 attentiveness is definitely in short supply, making it – according to the laws of sup- ply and demand – a most valuable commodity (Russ-Mohl 2002, p.125ff.). A promising outlook, one might suppose, for enterprises whose job is to transmit information. But the fact is that modern companies are faced with a dilemma. “Projects which look promis- ing from an economic point of view – and are thus attractive for publishers too – are those which either easily absorb our attention and/or do not demand too much of our concentration”, is how Stephan Russ-Mohl defines the requirements of a successful media product (ibid, p.3). The crux of the matter is that in Switzerland there has been a clear shift of focus in the field of communication. More and more information media are going over to trivial tabloid journalism – that is to say, they do not demand too much attentive- ness on the part of their readers. Given the generally short attention span of the broad public, one may be tempted to say that the infor- mation market is getting more and more saturated with trivia. At the same time, this situation could also open the door to high-quality niche products. Viewed from this aspect, well researched stories, tantalising exclusives and insider reports – so-called scoops – ought to be in greater demand than ever before, but these considerations appear not to...

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