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Switzerland: free newspapers gaining ground

The news of Duke d'Estaing's military campaign in Grenada appeared as the lead story on 12 January 1780 in the first-ever issue of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (then still just Zürcher Zeitung). This marked the beginning of a free press in Switzerland. When the Swiss Federation was founded in 1848, press freedom was considered a constitutional matter. And to this day Switzerland can still call an impressive level of press freedom its own, despite the increasing concentration on the media market.

The NZZ has an excellent reputation in Switzerland and abroad.
(© picture-alliance/dpa)

The Swiss broadcasting company SRG was founded in 1931 and is now called Swiss Radio and Television (SRF). SRF broadcasts in Switzerland's four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. It is legally required to provide information in all regions and receives licensing fees for this purpose.

Swiss radio was deregulated in the 1980s and private radio stations permitted to broadcast. This gave a new boost to the concentration process in the media, so that now the market is dominated by a few multi-media concerns.

The print media are important in Switzerland and number around 2,700, including over 450 daily newspapers. Of the national newspapers the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) enjoys a particular reputation in Switzerland and abroad. Other prominent papers are the French-language Le Temps and the Italian Corriere del Ticino.

A steadily increasing number of regional dailies have been taken over by the media companies Tamedia and the NZZ group in recent years. Only a few dailies are still independent of the big publishing houses. The takeover of formerly liberal papers and the once distinguished Weltwoche by right wing-conservative publishers made headlines. The latter have jumped on the bandwagon of the populist Schweizer Volkspartei (SVP) which campaigns against the EU, foreigners and asylum-seekers.

Free newspapers have gained significant ground in recent decades. The success of the free newspaper 20 Minuten also caused established publishers to sit up and take notice, for example the publishers of the tabloid Blick, which distributes the evening edition of the paper free in urban centres.

The significance of blogs and online portals, many of which belong to dailies, is growing. But independent Internet formats are also becoming more popular. Successful websites such as Watson have gained a reputation as sensationalist alternatives to traditional journalism. But the established media have retaliated: the NZZ, for example, in 2014 made all the articles it has published since 1780 available online.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 20th place (2015)
Freedom House: 12th place (2014)

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