Culture and Media


The subject of this chapter is two thematic areas that would be difficult to document separately, due to their extensive overlap in content. For example, a newspaper is not only a medium that seeks to convey certain messages to its readers, but it also represents a part of the political and social culture of the very society from which this reading public is recruited. Theatre, motion pictures, and radio also belong to this category of media that both conveys and represents culture. Conversely, there are numerous cultural phenomena and products that do not have the function of imparting information and opinions. Admittedly, in this respect our decision not to differentiate between cultural and media statistics appears somewhat arbitrary. However, the selection of the series to be presented anyway occurred by subjective criteria. The author of this chapter begs for understanding that in this situation he became the victim of his own passions, appropriating for himself the sentence chiseled into the stone above the entrance of the St. Gall Collegiate Library: that the written word assumes the meaning of a “medicine chamber for the soul”. It is hoped that readers of the “Historical Statistics” will not consider it a hardship to learn much about libraries, books, newspapers, and theatre productions, but nothing at all about sporting events and the entire radio and television industries.

Libraries 1868–1985

Founded at the turn from the early to the late Middle Ages, the St. Gall Collegiate Library represents the oldest existing lending library in Switzerland. The Benedictine Library in Einsiedeln also was able to celebrate its thousandth anniversary some time ago. Of course, the “Historical Statistics” cannot go that far back, since the earliest national library statistics, compiled by Ernst Heitz, only date from the year 1868. Heitz unveiled the major results of his extensive research in a presentation at the 1871 annual meeting of the Swiss Statistical Society; he delivered interesting details on individual institutions a year later, in his publication “Public libraries in Switzerland in the year 1868” (“Die öffentlichen Bibliotheken in der Schweiz im Jahre 1868” /“Les bibliothèques publiques de la Suisse en 1868”). Even though there may be certain caveats about the quality of this private survey, there is no doubt that it was performed with extraordinary caution and seriousness. This same thoroughness also marks the first major official survey of Swiss libraries, which, however, was not performed until three years before the start of World War I, after a commission of the 1895-founded Swiss National Library succeeded in convincing the government of the necessity of such a study. After that, it again was almost half a century until the Federal Statistical Office picked up on a suggestion of the Association of Swiss Librarians and initiated a second major national survey. The end of the 1970s saw a second private party attempt to determine the total number of Swiss libraries and their book inventories: In her dissertation on the services of Swiss libraries, Edith Bartholomeusz compiled statistics of institutions and their inventories which, despite their incomplete character, deserve to be reprinted in part in the table section of this chapter.
With the way our tables are structured, we acknowledge the fact that the surveys of 1868, 1911, 1959/60, and 1980 did not always highlight the same aspects of libraries and thus are only conditionally comparable. The lowest aggregation level performs best and manages to provide definite information on certain long-term developments. For this reason, we print the most important values characterizing the country’s main libraries, in addition to the tables ordered by canton and, in part, by district. However, since we were not able to unearth the source material for the count of 1959/60 despite intensive searching, there is a major gap in this presentation between the surveys of 1911 and 1980. The numbers we report for 1980 and 1985 originate from the annual series “Swiss Libraries” (“Schweizerische Bibliotheken”) issued by the Federal Office of Statistics. Please note that this publication, which commences in the 1920s but does not report on book inventories before 1978, provides data only for some of the Swiss libraries. For example, monastery libraries are not included, which according to Bartholomeusz’survey own very substantial book inventories even by today’s standards.

Newspapers 1840/60–1990

Our overview of the distribution and frequency of 33 Swiss newspapers during the period of 1840–1990 is based on a multitude of sources. Initially, it looked as though we were limited to the distribution of just a few papers covered by Karl Weber for the year 1848 and by Erich Gruner for three additional sample years. Later we found additional data in studies authored by Josef Jäger, Ernst Bollinger, and Linda S. Kropf between 1966 and 1976 on the Swiss newspaper industry in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. A dissertation by Karl Bürgin, published in 1939, turned out to be the biggest discovery; it offers a nearly complete overview of the Swiss newspaper market in the years 1896, 1913, and 1930. Finally, it is appropriate to recognize the valuable help given to us upon our request by the documentation center of the Association of Swiss Advertising Agencies (“Dokumentationszentrum des Verbandes schweizerischer Werbegesellschaften [VSW]” / “Association des agences suisses de publicité [AASP]”) in Lausanne, through their assigning staff member Mrs. Fuchs with the task of preparing historical-statistical fact sheets for a number of newspapers based on the “Swiss Press database” maintained by the association. In this way, we obtained statistics which, for a period of 55 years, present precise information on the year of establishment, frequency, and distribution of approximately two dozen newspapers. As far as distribution was concerned, there was a need for additional processing: in order to achieve more or less homogenous calendar year statistics suitable for comparing the distribution of different papers, we had to convert the distribution data sample points, which only referred to one specific day per year, into average values. In its current form, the table consists solely of estimated values that only represent a rough outline of the actual distribution curves of 33 newspapers.

Processing of New Year’s Editorials of Three Newspapers 1841–1980

At the University of Zurich, sociologist Manuel Eisner used newspapers to create a data series that provides certain information on the course of political culture in the late 19th and 20th centuries. This author of the dissertation “Political speech and social change” (“Politische Sprache und sozialer Wandel”), published in 1991, was kind enough to send us the data series upon which he had based his research.
Eisner’s index series, reaching back to the beginning of the 1840s, is based on the processing of New Year’s editorials printed in the liberal paper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, the Catholic-conservative “Vaterland”, and the social-democratic “Volksrecht”. After multiple processing of the data, Eisner arrived at four indicators which allowed for a statistical description of the cultural imagery found in the text. A simplified explanation of these indicators is that they are the percentages that certain groups of nouns represent in relation to the total of all nouns counted in the articles. Eisner defines the noun groups he had formed as follows: “The category ‘fears’contains all those nouns that indicate in any way feelings of fear, loss, threat, or inadequacy, as well as nouns that describe fear-producing processes or situations. The category ‘normative orientation’ includes all those nouns which express ethical or political principles, commitments, or world views, be they of secular or religious nature. ‘Instrumental orientations’ are represented by all those nouns which indicate an instrumental relationship to the world, an active involvement, and an orientation towards goals and means. The category ‘cognitive orientation’, finally, contains all those nouns that describe processes or results of naming, thinking, recognizing, asking, and describing.”
The index series printed in the table section of this chapter are based on Eisner’s average values for three newspapers, flattened with moving five- year averages. (For the first five decades, when the “Volksrecht” did not yet exist, the average was computed from the indices for the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” and the “Vaterland”.) Eisner deemed the flattening operation necessary since the relatively small text basis prohibited an interpretation of annual values. Comprehensive processing of newspaper articles can also be found in the first volume of the series “Crises and social changes” (“Krise und sozialer Wandel” / “Crise et changement social” ), published in 1993 by Kurt Imhof, Heinz Kleger, and Gaetano Romano, and dedicated to the turbulent period of 1910–1940. Based on a huge number of articles from the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, the “Vaterland”, the “Tages-Anzeiger”, and the “Tagwacht”, the authors of this study prepared a list of so-called media events, which they defined as “editorially constructed interpretational units”. Their procedure consisted of weighting the events reported on in the reviewed newspapers with the length of the articles. The ten events that received the most editorial attention were ranked in order, and assigned a percentage which reports on the relative weight with which the respective event was represented in the total length of the ten articles. Since these statistics, processed by Esther Kamber, are printed in their entirety in the appendix of the abovementioned publication, we did not integrate it into the “Historical Statistics of Switzerland”. Nevertheless, we wish to acknowledge the study as a pioneering effort.

Theatre and Opera in Nine Medium and Large Cities 1943/44–1985/86 ...

Since 1944, the Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland contains interesting, if fragmentary, information on supply and demand in the Swiss theatre market. The processing of this data yielded a summary covering 43 performing seasons including the number of productions and the size of audiences, as well as the capacity and the financial situation of well-known theatres in the cities of Zurich, Basle, Geneva, Berne, Lausanne, Lucerne, St. Gall, Biel/Bienne, and Solothurn. However, since some of the printed series suffer from inhomogeneities it is advisable to refrain from making an interpretation of the entire observation period. This caveat is particularly true for the city of Lausanne where the figures initially applied only to the municipal theatre, then to the municipal theatre and the Theatre Beaulieu, and, finally, on the municipal theatre, the Theatre of Vidy, and the “Theatre of Fake Noses”.

... and in the city of Zurich 1834/35–1934/35

What the official statistics for the year 1944–1987 do not reveal is the names of authors and productions featured in the various theatres. The statistical yearbooks of the cities of Zurich, Basle, Geneva, Berne, and St. Gall omit this information as well. This, however, does not mean at all that the processing of primary data in this area is undoable or unfeasible. At the occasion of the 100th birthday of the Municipal theatre of Zurich (“Zürcher Stadttheater”) in November, 1934 Wilhelm Bickel published an essay in the “Zürcher Statistische Nachrichten” refuting this viewpoint, one that seemed to have been widespread even then. In the table section of this chapter, we devote a full two-page spread to this “extracurricular” masterpiece by the later professor of economy and grand old man of Swiss demographical history, not only to familiarize readers of this volume with a few quantitatively measurable aspects of the history of the Municipal theatre of Zurich, but we wish to illustrate with the inclusion of this type of information as well what a historical statistic also can be – and what, in our opinion, it also should be.

SOURCE: «Culture and Media» in Ritzmann/Siegenthaler, Historical Statistics of Switzerland, Zürich: Chronos, 1996, 1121-1126

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The current chapter contains 21 table(s) between 1780 and 1993