The CLP section of ECREA wishes to draw attention to some worrying developments in Europe regarding policy debates questioning public service media’s position and (license fee) financing in countries like Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. Of particular concern is the Swiss referendum, in early March 2018, on an amendment of the Swiss constitution that would prohibit public funding for radio and TV channels as well as the collection of a license fee. Supporters of this referendum argue that broadcasting should be funded by the market and that their solution would free the Swiss people from ‘state television’ (Staatsfernsehen) and abolish the ‘forced license fee’ (Zwangsgebühren). Basic media economics and the small size of the multilingual Swiss market suggest that the most likely outcome would be the closure of SRG SSR (the public broadcaster) or at least its transformation into a commercial company and the dwindling of original Swiss quality programming, particularly in French, Italian and Romansh. In times of a funding crisis of journalism this would undermine further a sustainable media system. Fortunately, the Swiss voters turned the referendum down. 71.6% of voters and every single canton (or state) rejected the dismantling of public service media. The Swiss result might be an important signal for other European countries as well.
Given the important role of public service media in a digital environment and the limitations of private (audiovisual) media in small media systems, these and similar developments demonstrate the need for communication scholars in general and law and policy researchers in particular to observe and take part in public debates concerning these issues. The CLP section looks forward to discussing these and other issues with all of you during the Lugano conference.
The Management team of the Communication Law and Policy Section
Hilde van den Bulck, Sarah Broughton Micova, Marko Milosavljevic