A recent survey by a Swiss union USS shows that average pay for journalists in Switzerland has barely risen for 14 years.
In 2006, on average (median) a journalist earned CHF 7,200 a month. By 2020, this figure had risen to CHF 7,333, an average annual increase of 0.13%, which amounts to less than CHF 10.
Journalists working for Switzerland’s broadcaster RTS, which is largely funded by an annual fee levied on households and businesses, faired the best, earning a median monthly salary of CHF 7,900. By comparison, those working for private radio and television companies earned median monthly pay of CHF 5,526. Those working for newspapers (CHF 7,143) and digital media (CHF 7,229) were in between.
Freelance journalists are finding life the most difficult. More than 50% of freelancers earn less than CHF 6,000. Overall only 23% earn below this level. In addition, 58.6% of freelance journalists say they are very or fairly concerned about losing work and 86.1% think finding replacement work would be fairly or very difficult.
USS points out the higher pay and greater perceived job security of those on contracts governed by union agreements – only 10% of this group earns less than CHF 6.000 per month.
However, a struggling sector ravaged by digital businesses such as Google and Facebook that now rake in a significant share of total media advertising revenue but employ few journalists, could find it difficult to pay journalists more.
Getting readers to pay for news is difficult too when so much news and journalism is offered for free online. Tax funded broadcasters do not need to charge readers directly for content. They receive a reliable flow of income from the annual fees levied on households and businesses. They have little need to charge readers.
In Switzerland, a number of private media have been scaled back or axed.
CNN Money, a short lived new entrant was wound up recently. Newspapers in Vaud have come under pressure and scaled back their operations. In 2018, Le Matin, a daily newspaper, stopped its daily newspaper and laid off 41 staff. It is now only printed at the weekend. More recently, 24 Heures, another newspaper, cut people from its workforce. TX Media, Switzerland’s largest private media group and owner of 24 Heures, Tribune de Genève and Le Matin introduced partial unemployment in March 2020, after advertising revenues fell.
To some extent commercial journalism has become a profession in search of a revenue model.