Andrea Fopp from “Bajour” says yes, Oliver Sterchi from “Primenews” says no. An argument.
“No online medium has so far had enough money for comprehensive local journalism,” says editor-in-chief Andrea Fopp from the Basel online magazine “Bajour”. This is even the case in Basel, where the variety of media is greater than anywhere else. “Nobody has a federal house editorial team that observes national events from a Basel perspective,” she says. The two other big players, “Basler Zeitung” and “bz Basel”, also obtain a large part of their reporting from their cover newspapers in Zurich and Aarau. Fopp advocates a “yes” for media funding.
So far, no online model has had enough money for comprehensive local journalism.
Oliver Sterchi from the Basel online magazine “Primenews” also says that the media diversity in his region is particularly large. This was launched 3.5 years ago and – like “Bajour” – has money for three full-time positions.
Who are «Primenews» and «Bajour»?
“Bajour” reports on urban issues, primarily from the Basel region. The platform has built a community that can take action beyond journalism (e.g. during the pandemic where members could share and help each other.)
“Primenews” is also mainly about regional issues. Current political priorities are often processed and analyzed.
Unlike Fopp, however, Sterchi fights media funding. On the one hand, he criticizes that only online media with a subscription system can benefit from subsidies. The “Primenews” model with a barrier where readers have to decide whether to watch a commercial or pay money before the article is activated is disadvantaged. This is because the Federal Council and Parliament would prefer subscription models with the new funding.
Sterchi is also bothered by the fact that funding has long gone not only to smaller media, but also to large newspaper publishers. The big publishers had previously “cannibalized themselves” by outsourcing the lucrative advertising business. He therefore criticizes the fact that these publishers “now hollow their hands and want tax money”.
Publishers have outsourced the advertising business, cannibalized themselves and now they’re hollowing their hands and want tax money.
However, it is not yet clear how the CHF 150 million earmarked for media funding would be distributed. Fopp agrees with Sterchi that large publishers would also benefit and says that she too would prefer “more money to flow into promising online media and less into print publishers”. “But the media package is a compromise,” and it’s common not to be completely satisfied with everything.
Independence not in jeopardy
However, the two online media people agree on the assessment of whether state funding for the media would endanger their independence, as opponents use as an argument against media funding. “It’s exaggerated,” says Sterchi. He sees only isolated difficulties: “For example, when I criticize subsidies to agriculture and as a medium myself receive subsidies.”
Package of measures in favor of the media
The funding, which will be voted on on February 13, provides for financial support for the media. It is still unclear who will get how much if the law is passed. What is clear, however, is that the existing support for the delivery of newspapers would be continued or expanded. The amount would be increased from 30 to 50 million. Online media are to benefit with a total of CHF 50 million. However, this only applies to those who have a subscription or membership system, i.e. are co-financed by the readers. The third group to benefit would be local radio and TV stations that fulfill a public service mandate. They have been receiving subsidies since the mid-1990s. Now 28 million more would be available. The law is limited to seven years.
Basel regional journal, January 21, 2022, 5:30 p.m.; kenc;gotl