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What is quality?
Quality is important. Quality is good. Quality is what everyone wants to achieve, what everyone reveres, what everyone emphasizes. That said, anyone having to explain what, exactly, quality is, will often run into difficulties – that they then try to get out of by listing examples. The positive connotations attached to "quality" are unrivalled by almost any other concept, and yet it is so hard to pin down. The problem is that each and every statement about quality is tied up with the observer's own values. Often, they are making a judgement based on their own criteria. The professionals at SRG, for example, have a different view of programme quality than the audience. Meanwhile OFCOM, as the supervisory authority, has another take entirely. Quality can only be measured and judged adequately if there is consensus on the criteria that it must meet.
While a private-sector company is able to define quality criteria in relative autonomy, SRG – as a public-sector enterprise – must abide by other rules. Its broadcasting charter lays down four primary quality dimensions: relevance, credibility, responsibility and professional journalism. Alongside these national standards are the criteria and quality targets that each Enterprise Unit – down to the smallest editorial team – sets for itself. These relate in particular to the very practical requirements that the craft of journalism must satisfy.
However, in addition to the law and self-determined standards, there is also a third group which has a fundamental part to play in determining quality: the audience.
How does SRG ensure quality?
To ensure the quality of its output, SRG must be as familiar as possible with the measurable aspects of quality. The audience view is clear from viewing and listening figures ("ratings"), and is also recorded in regular surveys.
To review the attainment of statutory (and all other) quality targets in all four language regions and at Swissinfo, our first step is to apply standard minimum quality assurance modules.
These minimum standards are generally embodied in standardised processes, because compliance with clearly defined procedures is half the battle when it comes to quality.
Monitoring and supervising the quality of SRG output is also one of the tasks fulfilled by SRG's parent companies. Each regional parent company has a Public Council which regularly takes a close look at the quality of the individual services.
Finally, each year the Federal Office of Communications commissions independent institutions – generally universities – to analyse SRG programming.
The "Markets and Quality" area forms part of the Director General's Staff Unit. It ensures that all of these measures and checks on programme quality are applied correctly and efficiently, and that the corresponding information circulates freely. After all, talking about quality helps to ensure quality.
Why care about quality?
SRG is Switzerland's largest media enterprise, and is financed to a significant degree by audience fees. As a public service enterprise, it has a major role to play in enabling Switzerland's citizens to fulfil their democratic obligations. With the advent of the digital age, the media world is becoming increasingly complex. The media revolution is making it more and more difficult to distinguish relevant and reliable news from the unfiltered and uncontrolled reproduction of information. These are all good reasons why SRG takes its commitment to quality very seriously. We stand up for quality, because we firmly believe that it is an investment in democracy.