Brotz vs. Aeschi in the “Arena”: Complaints authority reprimands SRF

The independent complaints authority for radio and television comes to a clear conclusion: the TV audience was unable to form their own opinion about the program in question.

The scene of the kick-off: Sandro Brotz (right) reads the Levites to Thomas Aeschi in the “Arena”. SRF


Curtain up – only the arena was unfamiliar: did SRF moderator Sandro Brotz violate the principle of fairness towards SVP parliamentary group leader Thomas Aeschi? Yes, according to the decision of the Independent Complaints Authority for Radio and Television (UBI), which it made on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 7 to 2.

The stumbling block is the “Arena” broadcast on March 18 of this year. Moderator Brotz put National Councilor Aeschi in his place with clear words: “Tonight we are crystal clear that what you said was racist. Period, exclamation mark, »he said in a one-to-one conversation after a good ten minutes of the show. He referred to an assessment by the Federal Commission against Racism (FCR) and to public prosecutors and criminal law experts who were not mentioned by name.

Brotz referred to a statement by Aeschi in the National Council, which had already caused outrage in the run-up to the “Arena”, but only after the parliamentary debate: It should not be “that Nigerians or Iraqis with Ukrainian passports suddenly rape 18-year-old Ukrainian women », said the Zuger in the plenary session. Aeschi later explained that the sentence referred to a sexual offense in Düsseldorf in early March that was reported by the German media. He had not yet made this connection in Parliament.


The UBI has now dissected the Brotz-Aeschi cross-examination on the occasion of a public consultation, which was exceptionally held in Lausanne. The central question was: Was the average audience able to classify the facts conveyed in the interview and form their own opinion with regard to the possible criminal liability of Aeschi’s statement? This was not the case for a clear majority of UBI members. The conversation was “shortened and incomplete,” the viewers were “misled,” said Vice President Catherine Müller.

A TV presenter can be provocative and can also play the role of devil’s advocate. Brotz, however, proceeded “apodictic and inquisitorial” in the interview and presented the facts as if they were “inevitable, proven and not debatable”. The impression was reinforced by his suggestion that Aeschi could “get his turn” if he weren’t protected by parliamentary immunity.

According to the UBI, the EKR made a social science assessment, but not a criminal assessment. In addition, there were only two and not several criminal law experts and the subsequent media debate showed that there were different opinions with regard to the legal qualification of Aeschi’s sentence.

Which impression sticks?

When it comes to the question of whether SRF violated program rights, it is important to know whether the sequence in question was a main point of the program – or whether it was just a side issue of little relevance. To put it another way: What did the audience remember as an overall impression after the show?

In this regard, too, most UBI members agreed. The suspicion of racism had already been discussed in advance and repeated several times during the program. The allegation was omnipresent as a “theme and mood thread”, which could be used to determine that the program law had been violated, according to the UBI.

The written reasons for the decision will be available in a few weeks. SRF, on the other hand, can appeal to the Federal Supreme Court.

More to come.

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