Obstacle to Swiss Media membership
by Geneviève Rossier et Françoise Deriaz
29/05/2009 - The renewal of Switzerland’s membership of the Media Programme is still being hampered by the European Union’s demand for recognition of the so-called “country of origin” principle of the “without borders” Audiovisual Directive, concerning the free and unrestrained reception and broadcast of television programmes, with their accompanying advertisements for political parties, religious groups and alcohol (see news).
While Parliament has largely accepted the renewal of the Media Agreement, it must also agree to relax the law on alcohol advertising on television. However, in the name of public health, on March 17 one of the Chambers (the Council of States) declared itself in favour of tightening current regulations, i.e. by imposing a total ban.
Faced with this overt resistance, Brussels has obviously adopted a firmer tone, especially as Switzerland’s attitude to the issue of sensitive files relating to bank secrets and tax avoidance does not predispose the EU to leniency.
Last Tuesday, the National Council had to decide whether or not Switzerland should agree to adapt the advertising law to European requirements, a decisive key to continued negotiations. By 91 votes against 78, parliament members opted for liberalisation.
In accordance with Swiss procedure, the issue will thus be referred back to the Council of States for a re-examination at the start of June, before it is passed again to the National Council. Film professionals will thus have to wait another few weeks to have a clear idea about their European future, whilst hoping that Switzerland does not choose the path to isolation.