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Opponents challenge media aid law to referendum

Paper or digital? Changing times for the media in Switzerland... Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle - Click to enlarge

A cross-party group has handed in signatures opposing a support package for the media passed by parliament in June.

The “no to state media” group handed in some 113,000 signatures on Wednesday, more than double the amount needed to force a referendum under the Swiss direct democracy system.

The opponents say the law is unconstitutional and a waste of taxpayer money.

“Medias financed by the state prevents public debate and destroys freedom of expression. It’s poisonous for democracy,” said former Liberal Radical (centre-right) parliamentarian Peter Weigelt, president of the committee.

The law passed in June outlines a range of measures to support independent media, including the subsidising of morning newspaper deliveries and help for online websites. More support will also be provided to journalism schools, as well as the Keystone-SDA agency.

Over the seven-year period agreed by parliament, the total funding would come to around CHF3 billion ($3.23 billion).

On Wednesday, the opponents said a referendum would allow for a wider public debate about the role of media in a democracy and the relationship of media to the state.

The committee is backed by 72 parliamentarians and senators from centre and right-wing parties.

The Federal Chancellery still needs to validate the signatures before announcing a date for the referendum; it will likely be on February 13 next.

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