GENEVA (AP) — Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a government plan to pump more than 150 million francs (about $163 million) into broadcast and print media each year, including support for early newspaper delivery morning and online media to the tune of 70 million francs (nearly 76 million dollars) per year, according to exit polls.
Some 56% of voters rejected the measure, public broadcaster SRF reported.
Opponents of the plan, which was passed by Swiss lawmakers in June, had gathered enough signatures in a petition to put the issue to the public, part of the particular form of Swiss democracy that gives the country’s voters an 8.5 million inhabitants a direct voice. in policy making.
Opponents of the plan had said the cash injection would waste taxpayers’ money, benefit big newspaper chains and the media moguls who run them, and undermine journalists’ independence by making the media more dependent on subsidies state and therefore less likely to criticize officials. They also said it was discriminatory, since free newspapers would not benefit.
“A media subsidized by the state is a media under control. As the saying goes, ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’,” wrote the opponents who pushed for the referendum. They say that the major print media groups together made more than 300 million in profits in 2020, even during the COVID-19 crisis.
Many other countries in Europe and beyond offer support to newspapers through postage reductions, tax breaks and other measures.
Proponents of the injection of funds had countered that journalism, especially in local areas underserved by large media groups, should be considered a public service, as are many public radio and television broadcasters in Switzerland and in all of Europe.
“Media groups are fighting to survive. Advertising revenue from the print media keeps falling or is being swallowed up by giants like Facebook and Google, and subscriptions are not enough,” argued the Swiss Greens, who supported the measure, before the vote.
Proponents said more than 70 newspapers have disappeared since 2003. Advertising revenue from all print publications fell by 42% between 2016 and 2020 in Switzerland.