Study «Media and the power to shape opinions»
Changes in the media landscape
The digitalisation of the media has led to a major change in the media landscape and has fundamentally altered the usage behaviour of consumers. There has been less willingness among users to pay, with information being increasingly sought in free offers off- and online. The resulting drop in income from advertising and subscriptions in the press leads to cost savings and ultimately results in the quality and diversity of the traditional media being substantially reduced. At the same time, stakeholders from outside the industry such as search engines and social networks are becoming increasingly important.
Why conduct a TA-SWISS study on this subject?
Media offer collective access to information – and if there is no such access citizens are unable to form their own free opinions. The information communicated by the media is therefore an essential basis for democratic codetermination. This places considerable demands on a country’s political journalism. However, changes in the media and digitalisation are making it increasingly difficult for information journalism to fulfil its function.
Through their reporting and public discussion, the media can set priority themes (agendas) and influence political events. Diversity in the media landscape thus ensures balanced reporting, but competition is necessary for pluralism in the media. A number of channels and the opinions of a number of stakeholders are needed to express the different currents of public opinion. A reduction in media diversity therefore entails the risk of the largest publishing houses acquiring an excessive power to shape opinions.
For Switzerland, as a direct democracy, a decline in media quality and diversity is of particularly major significance, socially and politically. The question that therefore arises is how high-quality journalism should be financed in the future.
Aims of the study
The study investigates the interaction between traditional and “new” media in communicating information and forming opinions among citizens in Switzerland. It investigates the impact of technological changes on the setting of priority themes (agenda setting), business models, strategies and investments of media enterprises and the significance of new stakeholders for the communication of political information and opinion forming.
- The sub-project agenda setting investigates “old” and “new” media with reference to political opinion forming. In this case, the younger generation merits special attention, as they represent a key indicator for future media usage patterns. In addition, the connection between traditional media, social media and search engines is considered and their diversity of information and opinion examined.
- The sub-project business models and investments applies itself to the investments of major private Swiss media enterprises and the impact of these investments for the production of journalism, for instance conflicts of interest between selected business models and strategies (e.g. diversification, data mining), as well as reporting.
- The sub-project stakeholders of the future is concerned with new stakeholders in the communication of political information. In this case, on the one hand it is interesting to consider which channels (journalistic media, social media etc.) young users make use of to inform themselves about politics, and what differences there are with the population as a whole regarding usage and thematic priorities. For political opinion forming, however, “Voting Advice Applications” such as smartvote could become more important in the future, and it is worth looking more closely at their influence on citizens, candidates and parties.
The study will be conducted in three sub-projects:
- The sub-project agenda setting uses analyses of content and links (media agenda), documentary analysis (political agenda) and survey (public agenda).
- The analysis of business models and investments is based on qualitative expert interviews and documentary analyses.
- The sub-project stakeholders of the future uses a representative online survey of young people, an online survey of smartvote users and of candidates in the 2015 National Council elections, together with qualitative interviews with party presidents and media professionals.
Begins January 2015, completion March 2016
Results and downloads
Medien und Meinungsmacht. TA-SWISS Studie, Manuel Puppis, Michael Schenk und Brigitte Hofstetter (eds.), vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 338 Seiten, CHF 48.00 / EUR 46.00 (D)
ISBN: 978-3-7281-3792-0-7 (Buch) /
Download open access: TA 65/2016 (d)
Media and Democracy in the Digitalisation Age.
Abridged version of the TA-SWISS study: «Medien und Meinungsmacht». Centre for Technology Assessment (ed.), TA-65A/2017, Bern, 2017 (TA 65A/2017 e)
Available on completion of project
- Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS
- Federal Office of Communications
TA-SWISS Project Supervisors
- Dr Christina Tobler, TA-SWISS (E-Mail)
- Prof. Dr Manuel Puppis (Project Manager), Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Freiburg
- Prof. Dr Michael Schenk, Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Freiburg
- Prof. Dr Diana Ingenhoff, Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Freiburg
- Prof. Dr Otfried Jarren, Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research IPMZ, University of Zürich
- Prof. Dr Andreas Ladner, Institute of Public Administration, University of Lausanne
- Thomas Müller, SRF; Steering Commitee TA-SWISS - Chair of the supervisory group
- Dr h.c. Moritz Leuenberger, Zurich, Steering Commitee TA-SWISS
- Prof. Dr Thomas Merz, Medienbildung, PH Thurgau
- Prof. Dr Stephan Russ-Mohl, Journalism and Media Management at the Faculty of Communication Sciences, University of Lugano, Director of the European Journalism Observatory
- Dr Rosmarie Waldner, Science Journalist
- Sylvia Egli von Matt, former director MAZ
- Norbert Neininger, Schaffhauser Nachrichten, Vorstand SCHWEIZER MEDIEN (until May 2015)
- Dr Andrea Piga, SRF Programmstrategie / Markt- und Publikumsforschung
- Alain Maillard, EDITO
- Tibère Adler, Directeur romand Avenir Suisse
- Dr Philip Kübler, Verein Medienkritik Schweiz, Mitglied der Eidgenössischen Medienkommission
- Marc-Henri Jobin, Centre de formation de Journalism
- Christoph Zimmer, Kommunikation/Investor Relation Tamedia
- Marcel Geissbühler, Gassmann Media AG
- Jost Aregger, Federal Office of Communications
Yearbook “Quality of the Media”, Research Institute for the Public Sphere and Society / University of Zürich (http://www.foeg.uzh.ch/jahrbuch.html)
CH-3011 Bern T + 41 31 310 99 60
F + 41 31 310 99 61
The project in brief
The media landscape in Switzerland is going through a profound transformation. Structural change caused by digitalisation and a declining willingness among users to pay pose major challenges for information journalism. In a direct democracy like Switzerland, these changes are of considerable social and political significance. The study will highlight the development of the Swiss media landscape from journalistic, politico-scientific and economic perspectives. The main areas of focus are agenda setting, investments and key stakeholders.
Project: January 2015 to March 2016
Products: Final report and abridged version
Project management: Prof. Dr Manuel Puppis, Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Freiburg