Media Structures and Media Policy

Within the research area of "Media Structures and Media Policy" which is directed by Prof. Dr. Manuel Puppis, researchers deal with two interrelated subjects. On the one hand, we are interested in influences of media systems and media organizations on the media’s performance. The production of media content is not coincidental but depends on characteristics of the media system, ownership structures or the organizational design of media corporations, among other factors.

On the other hand, we focus on how media policy and regulation shape media structures. Media systems do not emerge naturally but are politically created. Various actors are involved in such policy-making processes and are trying to realize their interests and values. To analyze the regulation and governance of legacy media and new intermediaries we often perform international comparisons.


Research Projects


  • Understanding ALGorithmic gatekeepers to promote EPIstemic welfare (ALGEPI)
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis
    • Duration: 2023-2027
    • Funding: WEAVE Funding Scheme (Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF, Research Foundation Flanders FWO & Fund for Scientific Research Wallonia F.R.S.-FNRS)


    Technological and economic developments have led to the availability of an overwhelming quantity of digital content. Therefore, it has become crucial, in particular for media content providers, to incorporate algorithmic gatekeepers, which filter, rank and recommend content. Are these algorithmic gatekeepers undermining media’s contribution to epistemic welfare? In ALGEPI, we start from the novel concept of epistemic welfare, defined as the individuals’ right to know and be exposed to trustworthy, independent and diverse information while respecting individual rights to their own data. By connecting legal, political, technological and sociocultural perspectives, we will develop a conceptual framework for epistemic welfare.

  • Online Media Subsidies
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis, Etienne Bürdel and Stefano Pedrazzi (DCM)
    • Duration: October to December 2019 / September to November 2020
    • Funding: Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)


    The study investigates direct and indirect forms of online media subsidies in thirteen media systems: Austria, the Flemish and French communities of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Based on this comparative analysis, it then develops ideas for the future of media subsidies in Switzerland.

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  • Media Support in Liechtenstein
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis and Etienne Bürdel (DCM)
    • Duration: January to April 2019
    • Funding: Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein


    Given the media crisis, this study discusses opportunities to maintain a diverse media landscape in the principality of Liechtenstein. It is based on an international comparative analysis of models of media subsidies and public service in several European small states, namely Denmark, Finland, Norway, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland.


  • Media and the Power to Shape Opinions
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis, Brigitte Hofstetter, Michael Schenk and Diana Ingenhoff (DCM), Otfried Jarren and Stefan Bosshart (Uni Zürich), Andreas Ladner (Uni Lausanne), Lukas Golder (gfs.bern)
    • Duration: February 2015 to October 2016
    • Funding: TA-SWISS (Swiss Center for Technology Assessment)


    The Swiss media landscape is changing profoundly due to digitization. For Switzerland, as a direct democracy, dealing with the implications of digitization for political communication and journalism is of particularly significance. The project "media and the power to shape opinions" investigates the interplay of traditional and "new media" in citizens’ information and opinion formation. In particular, it focuses on agenda setting, changing business models and strategies of media companies and the role of new intermediaries for political communication. The project also puts an emphasis on the media use of young citizens. 

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  • Public Service Media in International Comparison
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis (DCM) and Corinne Schweizer (London School of Economic sand Political Science)
    • Duration: March 2015 to October 2015
    • Funding: Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)


    The future role of public service broadcasting is heavily debated in media policy. Yet to make informed political decisions and plan the future of media regulation, reliable information is needed. This international comparison of 18 media systems thus investigates the research questions of how the remit of public service is defined in times of digitization, how public service is funded, and which reforms are currently debated across Europe.

  • The Prospect and Development of Public Service Media: Comparative study of PSB development in Western Balkans in light of EU integration
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis and Laia Castro Herrero (DCM), Tarik Jusic and Davor Marko (Analitika Sarajevo)
    • Duration: July 2014 to September 2016 
    • Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) SCOPES Program

    As part of the democratization process, post-Communist societies, including the countries of the Western Balkans, were expected to transform their state-controlled broadcasters into public service broadcasters. The process of transformation in Western Balkan countries has faced many obstacles and problems: A politicized state, the subordination of the media to government in pursuit of economic goals, the paternalism of the state and strong clientelistic ties resulted in a failure to produce an environment conducive to independent public service media. These broadcasters are largely unable to fulfill their mission. Political elites seek to retain as much discretionary power over transformed public media as possible. This project attempts to discuss the position, role, functioning, and the future of public service broadcasters in six countries in the region of Western Balkans – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro.

  • Identification of Good Practice in Youth Media Protection in International Comparison
    • Project team: Wolfgang Schulz and Stephan Dreyer (Hans-Bredow-Institut), Matthias Künzler (Freie Universität Berlin), Manuel Puppis (DCM)
    • Duration: April 2013 to May 2014
    • Funding: Federal Social Insurance Office


    The project aims at comparing various regulatory models of youth media protection in different countries and on the European level, to analyze their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their suitability for the Swiss media system. The analysis consists of four steps: 1) a description of the existing regulatory models; 2) a comparative analysis of the models; 3) the identification of good-practice examples; and 4) and discussion of the transferability of models to Switzerland.

  • Media Regulation Monitor 2012/2013: Funding of Public Service Media, Media Subsidies, Licensing of Private Broadcasting
    • Project team: Manuel Puppis (DCM), Matthias Künzler (Freie Universität Berlin), Corinne Schweizer and Samuel Studer (Universität Zürich)
    • Duration: August 2012 to September 2013
    • Funding: Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)


    The media sector is in transition – and so is media regulation. Regulatory authorities require reliable information to plan regulatory reform as well as to develop solutions for regulatory problems both old and new. This internationally comparative media regulation monitor offers scientific evidence of trends in media policy as well as of regulatory developments. The project aims to develop a toolbox of innovative regulatory instruments by comparing media regulation in 18 media systems. It focuses on three areas of regulation: the licensing of private broadcasting, the funding of public service broadcasting, and media subsidies. 

  • Internationalization, Mediatization, and the Accountability of Regulatory Agencies
    • Project team: Fabrizio Gilardi and Martino Maggetti (Universität Zürich), Yannis Papadopoulos and Jan Biela (Universität Lausanne), Manuel Puppis (DCM)
    • Duration: October 2009 to September 2013
    • Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) NCCR Democracy


    Following the privatization of former state-owned enterprises and the liberalization of markets in recent decades, regulation has become an important public policy, whose responsibility has in many cases been delegated to independent agencies. During the past 15 years, these regulatory agencies have become powerful actors in the governance of different policy domains across Europe and beyond. A significant and increasing share of policy making is thus carried out by institutions that are not elected, are independent from elected politicians and insulated from democratic institutions. These developments pose serious challenges for democratic accountability.

    National regulatory agencies are increasingly embedded in international, interdependent networks of regulators, whose establishment is promoted by supranational bodies such as the EU Commission. This project examines whether networks significantly contribute to the promotion of "best practices" among these agencies through "peer pressure" and mutual accountability. To analyze this is crucial for assessing and improving the performance of regulators.

    Furthermore, in order to assess the public accountability of regulatory agencies, the project also studies their communication practices targeted at the media, governments, and other actors that are likely to monitor and evaluate their performance. With its research results, the project aims to increase public awareness about the regulatory activity of agencies and to contribute to the improvement of their performance and their democratic accountability.