Switzerland is the only country in the world to have a Print + Communication parliamentary group. We asked its Co-President Damian Müller, a member of the Council of States (Upper Chamber), what goals this group is working for and how he sees the future of the graphic arts industry in Switzerland in general and of print products in particular.
When was the Print + Communication parliamentary group founded?
Upper Chamber member Damian Müller:
The group was founded on January 1, 2015. Back in 2012, the Print, Media, Paper Parliamentary Group was set up under the auspices of viscom, the employers' association for the Swiss graphic arts industry.
How many members does it have?
There are a total of eleven representatives from five different parties represented in parliament: five from the center, three from the FDP, and one each from the SVP, GLP and Greens.
How regularly does the group meet?
There is a fixed meeting rhythm. If there is current political business, the members of the group also exchange information informally.
Since when have you been co-chairman (together with National Councilor Alois Gmür)?
I took over the co-presidency in 2019.
How did you come to hold this office?
I sit on the board of SWS Medien
in Willisau. So I am familiar with the industry and its problems. In my opinion, it is essential to be able to contribute one's own expertise and experience to such mandates.
Do you have a family background in graphics?
No, but I consider the value of a strong graphic arts industry to be high.
What is the difference between a parliamentary group and a commission?
In a parliamentary group, all parliamentarians who are interested in the topic in question are connected. It does not take place – as in a commission – the preparation for parliamentary business.
Misconception reserved is the Print + Communication parliamentary group in Switzerland unique in the world – or do you know of similar groupings at parliamentary level in other democracies?
No, but Switzerland's political system with its militia parliament is virtually predestined for parliamentary groups like the one on Print + Communication.
What are the group's objectives?
We advocate favorable conditions for the communications industry and the graphic arts industry in particular.
How do you intend to achieve these goals?
The parliamentary group is primarily concerned with information and exchange. If necessary, concrete political steps will develop from this.
What goals have you already achieved?
In the Council of States, we succeeded in rejecting the Christ motion, which demanded that today's well-functioning opt-out solution for unaddressed advertising in mailboxes with the sticker "Please no advertising" be replaced by an opt-in solution. Similarly, the Juillard motion was suspended because there are a number of initiatives on the table that deal with the issue of the basic postal service. In addition, we have campaigned for the adoption of the Müri motion.
What specific tasks/concerns are you currently pursuing in the group?
As I said, it is primarily a matter of mutual exchange. Our concrete political work is done in close consultation with viscom.
How do you assess the (political) influence of such a parliamentary group?
I consider the discussion on a particular topic beyond party boundaries to be very valuable. It happens time and again that a concrete political concern is pursued out of this exchange.
On February 13, 2022, the Swiss rejected by 55:45 percent a media package that provided for cheaper delivery of newspapers, new support for online media and generally more funding for measures to promote the media system. Instead of 287 million, the annual support measures will thus continue to cost 136 million francs. What was going through your mind on the evening of the vote?
Personally, I voted in favor of the media package because I am convinced that the regional media in particular play an important role in conveying information. It is important to me that we continue to strengthen the regional media.
In the referendum campaign, opponents of the media package argued that supporting and promoting printed newspapers was protecting the species of dinosaur. How do you counter such arguments?
Print products are still very popular and in no way threatened with extinction. Printed matter, in whatever form, stands for credible messages. The Swiss still like to read newspapers on paper. Print and online complement each other, and both channels have their merits. The online business is heavily dominated by internationally active groups. That makes it all the more important to offer targeted support to regional media.
You are a member of the FDP.Die Liberalen party, which traditionally places a high value on market mechanisms. As a liberal, why don't you simply want to let the market play out in the media as well?
The media market plays, and that's a good thing. But in a small-scale democracy like Switzerland with four national languages, it makes sense for us to support local offerings.
How important do you think it is for political discourse in Switzerland, with its direct democracy that is unique in the world and regular referendums, to maintain media diversity?
The media play a central role in referendums. Many voters want to find out more about an issue and not just read the slogans on the billboards. In a direct democracy, the media are particularly valuable for conveying information.
The countless social media channels also contribute to media diversity. Why do you think print media are still important? Or to put it another way: why is a media mix needed for the political education of voters?
In the online sector, regional aspects are often weighted much less heavily. An optimal media mix guarantees a comprehensive formation of opinion. This also includes a wide range of print products.
Do you see a danger for political decision-making if more and more voters inform themselves via social media instead of reading newspapers (keyword: fake news)?
Information continues to be provided to a large extent via the traditional media. According to the MACH-Basic survey, 4.93 million people obtained their information from the daily, regional weekly or Sunday press in 2020. This compares with 2.9 million people who obtained their information online on a daily basis.
They are also members of the viscom/p+c Politics Working Group, which was founded a few months ago. According to the viscom/p+c website, this coordinates political lobbying between the graphic arts industry organization and politicians. Do the objectives coincide with the parliamentary group Print + Communication?
Among other things, the viscom/p+c working group discusses the business on the Federal Council agenda and analyzes it with regard to its relevance for the industry. Possible measures or political interventions are then discussed together. In this respect, cooperation goes hand in hand. In general, the Policy Working Group is keeping a very close eye on Swiss Post's activities in the area of publishing services and in offering print products to end customers.
How do you see the future of the graphic arts industry in Switzerland in general and of print products in particular?
The graphic arts industry has already been going through a market shakeout for years. According to viscom estimates, this is not yet over. Here, it is certainly important that companies consistently and regularly review and critically question their business model. In the case of print products, there is no way around greater sustainability. The industry's cycles are closed, paper is a renewable raw material that can be recycled x times. The industry must support viscom/p+c's sustainability campaign. Only together can we succeed in positioning print as a sustainable medium.
How do you personally feel about print? Or to put it another way: What do you read in print and what do you read electronically?
I read a selection of regional and national daily and weekly newspapers and would describe myself as a passionate newspaper reader. Electronically, of course, I use the important social media.
Damian Müller personally
- Date of birth: October 25, 1984
- Place of residence: Hitzkirch (canton Lucerne)
- Occupation: Owner of MüPa.Beratung GmbH
- Council of States since: 2015
- Party: FDP.Die Liberalen
- Hobbies: family, friends, reading, endurance sports, football, equestrian sports (formerly active rider, now speaker at various equestrian events throughout Switzerland).