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7.4.2. Direct aids

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For many observers of the media world these measures will not be enough in the future to prevent the newspapers from sinking. What those people recommend is a direct help from the state.

A lot of European countries benefit from direct help from their respective state. An article in the newspaper Le Courrier that was published at the end of October 2010 summarizes how it works in those countries:(64)

“France seems to be the champion in what concerns help to the press. The public support to the press is a tradition that dates back to the Revolution.

The French State awards help to the printing, to the postal distribution and an encouragement to the distribution in kiosks. France provides help as well for newspapers whose advertising revenues do not exceed 20% of the turnover. L’Humanité, La Croix or Libération for instance benefit from these financial aids. Additionally help to projects of modernization of the titles which allows newspapers and daily papers in particular to develop their activities. Altogether there are about twenty different types of aid from the state that benefit the French press. Other countries are generous as well. In Italy the state finances up to fifty percent of the newspapers spending. In Sweden the titles that have low advertising revenues benefit from a public support that is very consequent. Other countries like Luxembourg support financially daily newspapers to the same amount with an additional aid per editorial page published.”

So direct aid from the state is not uncommon and Switzerland is one of the exceptions in Europe. But many believe it should not be the case. For instance the journalist of Tribune de Genève Jean-François Mabut expressed his ideas in the radio broadcast Médialogues on November the 29th: “if we pay farmers directly for their general interest work of landscape maintenance why not do the same for the media that do a general interest work as well by covering and animating the political debate? Here there is a model: the license fee for radio and television which could be extended to newspapers and general information websites”.

For the central secretary of Impressum Dominique Diserens direct aids from the government will be inevitable in the future. She believes that the actual economical business model will not work in the future anymore. And newspapers have to find new sources of income because otherwise it could lead to democratic problems. Political parties would be able supplant the work of the journalists with high budget campaigns, which is already partially the case in Switzerland with a party in particular. Regarding the question of the influence of the state of the contents with direct help Dominique Diserens believes it would not be greater than the influence of the advertising on contents that takes place nowadays.

She asks the question whether the influence of the state is worse than the one of the advertising and for her it is not the case. But before being able to provide such financial aids the state has to put norms to determine which newspapers can receive money directly. Norms like the ones that are in the federal law on post services in article 15(65). In this article there are clear conditions to receive indirect aid for the transport of newspapers. Similar conditions should be established to receive direct aid. The problem is that these conditions should be based on quality and they would be very difficult to set up. But recently the newspaper Le Temps received a certification of quality from the foundation Médias et Société which proves their high quality standards(66). This norm is called ISAS BCP 9001. Such norms could be used to help determine which newspapers should receive direct help in case it is adopted by the government.


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