Swiss likely to remain in Media
by Françoise Deriaz
For Swiss film professionals, the outlook suddenly turned bleak during the negotiations for the renewal of Switzerland’s membership in the new Media Programme 2007-2011. The European Union had demanded that Switzerland recognise the so-called "country of origin" principle concerning the free and unrestrained reception and broadcast of television programmes, with their accompanying advertisements for political parties, religious groups and alcohol.
However, Swiss radio and television laws forbid such commercials. The only exceptions are advertisements for beer and wine, but these are only shown on regional networks.
Having obtained from Parliament a two-year extension of the country’s membership of the Media Programme, the Federal Council then managed to thrust the importance of the Media agreement into the spotlight. The first debate on the subject will take place on March 17 and the second in June. But the chances of a positive outcome are much greater now than they were a few months ago.
Indeed, it has emerged from work carried out by numerous federal commissions – who have looked at the issue in great detail – that nobody opposed membership of the Media Programme 2007-2011, which is a good sign.
Regarding the broadcast by foreign networks of prohibited advertisements, in particular for alcohol, opinions are more divided: there has been much lobbying by public morality pressure groups. However, in the end, this is of little importance, for in order to enforce its stricter advertising regulations, Switzerland has the possibility to ask for a conciliation if the transmitting states violate Swiss prohibitions.
Moreover, the EU is not demanding that Switzerland change its radio and television law in this respect, but simply recognise the legislation of the transmitting country. This means that even if Parliament decided to opt for a complete ban on alcohol advertising, including that broadcast by foreign networks, this decision would have no effect on the renewal of Switzerland’s membership of the Media Programme.
(Translated from French)