Swiss Competition Commission approves Tamedia’s takeover of Basler Zeitung

The commission found that Tamedia's takeover of the local daily will not impede effective competition in the regional media landscape.

Swiss Competition Commission approves Tamedia's takeover of Basler Zeitung
Journalists of Le Matin newspaper, part of Swiss publishing group Tamedia, hold placards during a demonstration on December 15, 2017 in Lausanne. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

The Competition Commission had investigated whether the takeover in April 2018 of the Basler Zeitung by Tamedia, owner of 20 Minutes, 24 Heures and more than 50 print and online titles in Switzerland, would create a “dominant position” in the local media landscape, preventing fair competition. 

“There is evidence that the merger could create or strengthen a dominant position in the classified advertising market (print / online) of job vacancies in German-speaking Switzerland and the Basel region. In addition, there is evidence that the merger could create or strengthen a collective dominant position in the market for newspaper readers in the Basel region,” states an August 7th press release by COMCO.

In its latest statement, the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) acknowledged that “there is certainly evidence that the resumption of the Basler Zeitung could create or strengthen, with the NZZ / AZ group and the Ringier Group, a dominant position in the market for newspaper readers in the Basel region (REMP -Economic zone 31) as well as on different markets of advertisements in the Basel region and in German-speaking Switzerland.”

READ ALSO:  Swiss competition authority investigating 'media dominance' of Tamedia following group's takeover of Basel daily 

New ownership will not affect this, argues the commission. “The change of ownership of the Basler Zeitung however has little influence on the market situation. The recovery does not result in the elimination of effective competition,” COMCO said in a statement on October 11th. 

According to a 2014 report by the University of Zurich, “Tamedia AG dominates the printed media scene in French-speaking Switzerland, with no less than 68% of the market, and has also been expanding into Italian-speaking Switzerland since the autumn of 2011 with 20 minuti.”

“Tamedia AG controlled 41% of the press market in 2011. This made it the largest of the few major players within the press scene, where competition is scarce,” added the University of Zurich's report.

In 2017, several French-speaking local print editions were discontinued by the group, leading to protests by some of the company's journalists.

Tamedia purchased Basler Zeitung AG from Zeitungshaus AG and in turn transfers local dailies Zeitungshaus AG Tagblatt der Stadt Zürich AG and FZ Furttaler Zeitung AG to the Zurich-based publisher. “COMCO only examined the takeover of Basler Zeitung AG by Tamedia,” stated COMCO.

READ MORE: Swiss broadcaster to cut less jobs than previously announced





How media diversity is shrinking in Switzerland

The Swiss media landscape is becoming more concentrated than ever, a new study has found, leading to concerns about media diversity.

How media diversity is shrinking in Switzerland

The main reason for this trend is the influence of social media. In the German-speaking regions of Switzerland, media concentration reached 83 percent in 2018, while the corresponding amount in French-speaking Switzerland was 89 percent. 

Media concentration is measured by looking at diversity of sources at an editorial level. 

Social media

The research, which was completed by the Fög Institute at the University of Zurich, found that the importance of Google and Facebook in linking readers to news was strong and growing stronger. 

The study found that one major result of increased social media integration with news was that there were fewer possibilities for news to be checked, leading to the spread of fake news and misinformation.

The impact of the shift can be seen with regard to advertising revenue. With Google currently taking two thirds (67 percent) of all online advertising in Switzerland, the entire Swiss online media market earns less than the American tech giant. 

Respondents to the report said that they ‘often’ or ‘very often’ used Google as their primary news source. 

Subscriptions to newspapers in Switzerland is also on the decrease, shrinking from 56 percent to 32 percent in the space of ten years. 

Only 11 percent of respondents indicated that they subscribed to a news service. 

All the news that’s fit to print?

The research showed that drinking coffee while reading over the morning paper is decreasing. 

Almost two-thirds – 63 percent – of respondents said they consumed news ‘on the run’, while 39 percent said they preferred entertainment to news and only kept one eye on the day’s events at best. 

Traditional outlets remain more trustworthy

When asked which platforms were the most trustworthy when it came to providing the news, just under half (47 percent) said traditional sources were the most trustworthy. 

A total of 29 percent preferred search engines, while 17 percent said social media was the most trustworthy platform from which to procure the news. 

Younger people are the most clued into the risks of social media, with 62 percent saying they are suspicious of news which appears on social networks.

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