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7.4.1. Indirect aids

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For the large majority of editors in Switzerland the best solution to adopt would be indirect help from the state. This way, newspapers can keep their independence. This is a key notion for editors across Switzerland because they believe direct help would lead to the contents of their newspapers being influenced by the state. Even if that influence is very low editors are generally opposed to the idea. Here is a brief history of the indirect aids in Switzerland written by Daniel Hammer:

“In order to promote the diversity of the press a system of indirect aids for the press that reduced postal taxes has been adopted in the law during the 1990 years. Since then the system has constantly been criticized. Its detractors argued that it was only an ineffective subvention. Because many attempts have been unsuccessfully made to try to ameliorate this system the Parliament decided in 2002 to abolish this subvention for the end of 2007. The global sum of the aid had been limited to 80 million since January 2004. Four years later this decision has been largely attacked by the political institutions commission from the national Council which created a parliamentary initiative for the maintaining of the indirect help to the press. This initiative conducted to an animated debate at the parliament during the summer session of 2007. The two Chambers finally adopted the proposition of the conciliation conference that dictated that only the regional and local press that had a circulation of maximum 40‟000 copies would benefit from a subvention of 20 millions franks. The associative press would benefit from 10 million francs of aids. These two sums would replace the 80 millions franks that were globally allocated until then. The Swiss post was then made responsible to apply those new norms at the start of January 2008. In order to determine if a title could continue to benefit from the indirect aids to the press in the new legislative settings the Swiss post sent a form to all editors in Switzerland so newspapers could declare for the help. This procedure had been discussed with the association of editors. In December 2010 the federal Chambers decided to raise the indirect aids from 30 million globally to 50 millions.” Daniel Hammer

In a manifesto published by Presse Suisse the conditions that Presse Suisse feels should be improved for newspapers are described in detail, including the indirect aids. The modifications asked for are the following ones:(63)

– Better framework conditions for the distribution of newspapers and magazines: the actual system of help to the postal distribution of newspapers and magazines consists in an amount of money given to the Swiss post so they can award discounts for the distribution of some press titles. This sum has been largely reduced and the Swiss post did not stop to increase its rates in the last five years. The system that allows the post to charge for its services at full rate in this domain must be replaced. A model that charges only for the marginal costs of the press products. distribution should be established for the editors.
Additionally the help for local press with low circulation must be maintained.

– Value added tax (VAT): the editors that furnish journalistic contents should be exempted of paying the value added tax like it is the case in other European countries. It must be reminded that before the introduction of the VAT the subscriptions to the written press were not submitted to any taxes. In all cases a raise of the actual rate (2.4%) must be avoided and the lower rate should be extended to every press product, including the electronic offers.

– Creation of a right that protects the services of media enterprises: the contents digitalization is a legitimate threat in the area of intellectual property. When the protection granted by the law is insufficient or does not allow their beneficiaries to validly be defended by the justice then the whole financing of all the media in Switzerland is put at risk in the long term. Therefore the actual measures that protect copyright must be completed by introducing a right that guarantees the protection the services of media enterprises. The goal of this approach is to ensure that journalistic contents and press products enjoy an effective protection against all kinds of external exploitation.

– Sharing of the takes between the SRG SSR idée suisse and Presse Suisse: the law attributes a public service mandate to the SRG SSR idée suisse for the radio and television. However an extension of this mandate to multimedia activities is justified neither in the legal sense nor in the political sense. The SRG SSR idée suisse must follow the federal constitution and take into account the role of the other media, in particular the press. Therefore the interdiction for the SRG SSR idée suisse to advertise on its web sites should be maintained. The advertising revenues should continue to assure the financing of private media and not the SRG SSR idée suisse, which existence is assured from the license fee.

– Education and continuing education: the education and continuing education reinforce the quality of the media. In the approach of improvement of the framework conditions the state is invited to support and promote professional exams and for students and professionals already active in the press business.

Some of these propositions were already mentioned previously but these are the major changes that could be established in order to help newspapers indirectly.

63 Presse Suisse, manifesto

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