Swisscom’s communication seems to put the state-owned company only in the best light. An example shows how fatal this is for Switzerland.
When a company publishes a media release in the evening, it usually has something to announce that should not be in the public spotlight.
Many journalists have already gone home for the evening, and the next morning this topic from the previous evening is often buried in more topical media releases.
Swisscom seems to have made use of this ‘media gap’ because suddenly yesterday evening there was information with the following title: “The Federal Court supports the precautionary measures of the Weko”.
With such a positive-sounding title, however, one must know that things actually did not go well for Swisscom.
“In its ruling of November 29, 2022, the Federal Court concludes that the measures ordered by the Weko are not arbitrary,” the text went on to say, and it initially sounds rather harmless.
Outnumbered several times
The background to the whole affair, however, is that Swisscom has actually already lost several times in court against the Weko measures. The Swiss Competition Commission Weko has been investigating since December 2020 to what extent the expansion of the fiber optic network with Swisscom’s P2MP topology hinders competition.
Swiss competition watchdogs issued precautionary measures in this regard, which meant that Swisscom, with a few exceptions, could not put any connections built with this topology into operation and had to stop marketing them.
In this way the Weko wants to prevent Swisscom from creating a fait accompli, which would make it much more difficult for competitors to “get a foothold” in the fiber optics market.
Change of heart in the state
Around 400,000 connections will be affected by the end of September 2022. However, in order to enable customers to use the fast FTTH connections, Swisscom suddenly decided in October 2022 to execute new connections for the most part in the permitted point-to-point architecture (P2P) and to convert some existing P2MP connections to P2P.
However, the public will have to figure out the reasons for this change of mind at the state-owned company for themselves. The current ruling of the Federal Supreme Court, which Swisscom has now lost – by a landslide – confirmed a decision that the Federal Administrative Court had already made in 2021.
At that time, the title of the media release read “Federal Administrative Court confirms precautionary measures of the Weko”.
It also said that Swisscom considered the Weko’s measures to be ‘misguided’ and that Switzerland was thus threatened with “a delay in the roll-out of fiber optic networks to homes and businesses to the detriment of the economy and society”.
Swisscom dragging its feet
With the decision of Switzerland’s highest court, it came out that Swisscom actually caused the delays itself. Now one might think that the state-owned company would give in, not waste any more state money on the matter and explain in the normal way that their strategy had failed.
But … far from it. On the contrary, this evening’s media release bears witness to their concealment tactics.
This is in fact merely part of an overall communication. On Tuesday morning, the telecom group announced across the board: “The best mobile network is with Swisscom”. This media release had also been received by muula.ch.
Swisscom had then probably ‘forgotten’ to send the decision of the Federal Court to the new business news portal.
Work of the media exploited
However, the background to the whole Swisscom action in the morning is probably the fact that many media houses hardly want to publish two reports on one and the same company on one day, because it seems much too monotonous.
In this case, it is not uncommon for companies to broadcast a positive news item in the morning, which newspapers and radios would pick up.
Then, in the evening, something negative comes along and journalists are either already at the end of their day by then or, those who still see it, refrain from publishing it because of the one-sidedness.
Even in October, when Swisscom’s lawyers were probably already aware of how the Federal Court would rule, Swisscom only publicized the whole matter within the communication of its quarterly results.
This is exactly where Swisscom hid the cave-in to the Weko and the change in strategy: “In order to enable customers to use the fast FTTH connections, Swisscom has decided to use the point-to-point (P2P) architecture for the majority of new connections in the network expansion and to partially convert existing P2MP connections to P2P”. Well … that sounds positive.
But there is not one word of the pending Federal Court ruling, which may have influenced Swisscom’s rethinking, and landed just a few days later (ruling 2C_876/2021 of 2.11.2022).
The actual proceedings with the Weko have not even been decided yet, it was only about the precautionary measures.
But this is not the only issue with the state-owned company, as it certainly informs the public about its own situation in a legally correct manner, but then still leaves large parts of Switzerland in the dark.
Via the supposed news channel “Blue News” or bluewin.ch, which Swisscom operates, it suggests that it is a ‘normal’ media company. In reality, however, the news is all neatly orchestrated.
In the Swiss media landscape, it is an open secret that Swisscom, for example, checks the reports from actual news suppliers for critical statements about Swisscom and, if necessary, does not publish anything negative about its own state-owned company.
So the Swiss don’t really need to look so critically at China, do they? So only sunshine is desired for the Swisscom Group in its communications.
Credit Suisse jumps on board
But when companies or authorities have anything to communicate to the public in the evening, journalists have to prick up their ears and take a particularly close look.
The crisis-ridden bank Credit Suisse also tried this tactic recently. But Switzerland’s new business news portal, muula.ch, threw a spanner in the works by analyzing the whole affair in the middle of the night and posting a story early next morning.