Google As the landmark World Conference on International Communications (WCIT-12) begins in Dubai, the Swiss Social Democratic Party is devising bold propositions to defend democracy, media pluralism and freedom of expression for digital media and the press. Taking cues from France and Germany, Switzerland is targeting Google as a subject of public regulation. In an interview with the Swiss magazine Edito+Klartext, former President of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, Hans-Jürg Fehr, outlined these propositions.

Despite the fact that a concentration of media outlets diminishes the diversity of viewpoints, the Swiss Federal Council decided in June 2011 to let market forces regulate the media. Determined to defend smaller and new media outlets – both press and digital – the Chambers decided to mandate the Federal Council to devise a media policy within two years. New economic models are now sought in order to replace the ordinary direct and indirect subsidies granted to the media, which have failed to guarantee the viability of many actors.

As financing the media remains the focal point, a new model is currently being discussed by the Social Democratic Party. Unlike previous approaches, this model does not rely on taxpayers' money, but instead seeks solutions within the system.

Hans-Jürg Fehr explained the concept of a fund to provide financial support to online media based on two main forms of tax.

The first tax would target advertising revenue, amounting to 1-2 percent of the proceeds received by the media. It would be similar to a VAT and easily collected by cantons through telecommunications operators. Hans-Jürg Fehr emphasized that “implementing this system would only require a fund and a commission that would manage and distribute the money raised to media eligible for financial support.” 

Another tax would target bandwidth usage and would apply to content senders. Such a tax would be paid by Google and other search engines as a contribution to media content generating bandwidth consumption. Swiss telecommunication operator Swisscom already confirmed that it is technically possible to identify the server from which data is sent. If this tax were to be implemented, state subsidies to the press would become superfluous and could be used as a subsidiary source of financing. 

As Hans-Jürg Fehr pointed out, “what matters is that the current 'paying receiver' system would be replaced by a system where big monopolies such as Google would pay.”

These propositions potentially represent global solutions to some international communications challenges. They address systemic hardships faced by online media and would benefit all media – unlike subsidies granted to specific categories. Most importantly, it would ensure a more equitable cost distribution between content producers, Internet users and major industry players.

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The Hypocrisy Threatening the Future of the Internet;

The Great Internet Governance Swindle;

(Photo © DR)