Urs Ziswiler, President of the Public Council
Discussions and meetings
The Public Council held three regular meetings in its new configuration in 2016. The joint meeting with the Committee of the SRG Board of Directors responsible for SWI swissinfo.ch was held in February. The new President, Urs Ziswiler, attended three meetings of the Committees of the various SRG Public Councils. Prior to the June meeting, the Council attended the meeting of all editorial staff, making three presentations at the event.
Areas of focus
Under the statutes of 31 March 2014, the Public Council has a duty to evaluate the various news and current affairs products generated by SWI in terms of their quality, relevance and effectiveness for an international and linguistically and culturally mixed audience. The Council used its first meeting in its new configuration to define its role and tasks. It shared its findings with all SWI swissinfo.ch staff at the editorial staff meeting. At its last meeting, the Public Council decided to amend the feedback form.
Remarks about 2016
During the first half of the year, the Public Council tracked the topic of immigration and refugees by means of seven items that were available in most of the languages covered by SWI. In the second half of the year, two members of the Public Council examined coverage of the US presidential elections by the English, French and Italian-language editorial teams. Those representing Russian, Japanese and Chinese each selected a specific topic of relevance to their region. The Russian member of the Public Council commented on coverage of the new Gotthard tunnel, while the President evaluated the referendum dossiers on basic incomes and the vote on the Asylum Act. The British member of the Council held the much-discussed “Seven Steps to Swissinfo Heaven” presentation.
Although the five members on the Council each differed in their (critical) verdicts on their chosen productions, they all came to the same general conclusion. That was that the SWI editorial teams are producing work of a high quality, and that the new Editor in Chief has injected a certain dynamism and momentum. The Public Council takes the view that SWI swissinfo.ch services largely meet the needs of their international audience.
Each member of the Public Council conducted their required quality controls in 2016. This involved one-day visits to their individual editorial teams. These meetings permit the new members of the Council, in particular, to gain a deeper insight into the way in which the teams work, and to familiarize themselves more fully with the cultural and language-specific characteristics of those teams. The resulting discussions help the teams and their Public Council members to gain a better understanding of each other‘s roles and expectations.
Federal Council and parliamentary resolutions
The Public Council was extremely gratified to learn of the Federal Council‘s decision to extend SWI‘s international remit for a further four years. The Council submitted a statement as input into consultations on the 2017–2019 Stability Programme, and was delighted that the Swiss parliament rejected reductions in the SWI budget for 2017.
SWI provided extensive coverage of the centenary Congress of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad in 2016, which was hosted by Editor in Chief Larissa M. Bieler. The Congress was also streamed on www.swissinfo.ch. Peter Schibli, Director of SWI, chaired a panel debate on e-voting as part of a meeting with the Public Council. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) thanked SWI for its considerable support.
The Public Council received regular reports on the growth of internet usage figures in 2016. The steady increase in numbers is evidence that the information provided by SWI reflects the interests of its global readership.