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Swiss Media System


Porlezza C.

Course director


Course Objectives

The goal of the module is to advance the students’ understanding of how the Swiss media system is structured and how it affects contemporary media and journalistic practice.

At the end of the course, students are able to:

  • name the specific characteristics of the Swiss media system,
  • explain the consequences of these peculiarities for the Swiss media market,
  • describe current developments in Switzerland related to the different media types,
  • discuss the drivers as well as the consequences of these trends, particularly with regard to news media use,
  • have an informed discussion on polarization and disinformation in Swiss media,
  • and, finally, understand the different media regulations as well as the consequences of media policy decisions for the media.

Course Description

The Swiss media landscape is characterized by its strategic position in the heart of Europe and its cultural diversity: on the one hand it has to cope with bigger media markets of “next-door-giants” such as Italy, Germany and France; on the other hand it also has to deal with four official languages, the principle of direct democracy and a complex, federalist political system.

In addition, the traditional structures of the Swiss media system are in a state of flux: the newspaper industry faces economic difficulties and suffers the transition to a digital media ecosystem. While the print industry is shaped by intense competition and media concentration, the broadcasting sector is characterized by a dominant position of the public service broadcaster SRG SSR, which faces growing political pressure. In times of increasing disinformation, polarization, populism, and economic turmoil, media policy debates and issues of (self-)regulation become central as the media system needs to find solutions to ongoing challenges. The course tackles therefore contemporary debates in media and journalism as well as the social, economic, technological and political constraints within which Swiss media organizations operate.


Learning Methods

The course adopts a mix of ex-cathedra teaching, groupwork, interactive sessions, and student presentations.


Students’ class attendance is not mandatory, even if strongly encouraged. Teachers will not provide alternative teaching materials for non-attending students.

Examination Information

  • The students will have to carry out an in-class presentation in the last session of the course on a journalism startup project that fits the current Swiss media ecosystem. The project does not have to be implemented, but the feasibility of the project will have to be demonstrated along the lines of the criteria explained in the course.
  • The written exam will consist of a set of open questions to be answered by the students. There will be one mandatory question to be answered by all students, plus a set of question students can freely choose from. The date of the exam is to be determined.
  • The final mark for the course will be determined by the in-class presentation (20%) as well as the final exam (80%).
  • Both the presentation and the exam will be held in English.


Required Material

  • Bonfadelli, H., Meier, W. A., & Schanne, M. (2021). Switzerland: Highly concentrated leading news media in austerity and downsizing mode. In J. Trappel, & T. Tomaz (Eds.), The Media for Democracy Monitor 2021: How leading news media survive digital transformation (Vol. 1) (pp. 381–454). Nordicom, University of Gothenburg.
  • Fög (2020). Yearbook 2020 – The quality of the media. Basel: Schwabe. Summary.
  • Porlezza, C. (2020). Switzerland. In D. Merskin (ed.), The SAGE International Encyclopaedia of Mass Media and Society. London: Sage.
  • Porlezza, C. (2018). Switzerland: Role-Model with Glitches. In S. Fengler, T. Eberwein & M. Karmasin (Eds.), European Handbook of Media Accountability (pp. 259.267). Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.