Alumni event

The Future of Media: Fireside Chat with Gilles Marchand

Text by Melanie Picard, Project Manager | University Affairs, swissnex San Francisco

In early May, swissnex San Francisco welcomed the director of Radio Télévision Suisse, Gilles Marchand, for an intensive study tour of the Silicon Valley. He came to Northern California to explore perspectives for media in the near and far future, but he also took the opportunity to share insights and ideas about the next phase of media with a captivated group of Swiss university alumni.

The discussion did not start in the future or even in the present but rather in 1947. Marchand dug out a striking video from French television archives that shows how society saw the future of media back then. Their forecasts were pretty good: smaller screens, omnipresence, mobility, sharing, and even augmented reality were all expected.

La télévision oeil de demain

Screenshots from La télévision oeil de demain,, 1947

Marchand did not carry a crystal ball in his luggage, but nevertheless he brought an impressive understanding of the challenges that public radio and television in Switzerland will soon face. Among them, the Netflix syndrome (competition from on-demand streaming), the digital shift and its advertising crisis, and the rising cost of physical real estate and infrastructure. Even if being a public enterprise implies receiving a continuous stream of money, it also brings along plenty of constraints and expectations.

In the Swiss landscape, public radio and TV act as glue between different cultures and languages. They have the difficult task of making Swiss people feel Swiss—of relaying a Swissness that goes beyond a region or language.

Marchand is a “yes we can” man. His long-time experience in the media industry—working for the private and public sectors—make him aware and open to innovations such as participatory audience, social TV, crowdsourced content, and even transmedia.

Overall, Marchand’s comments during the Fireside Chat were empowering and left everyone present with the feeling that media belongs to the public. As such it should adapt to the needs of that public, share information, build knowledge, and also weigh in with just the right balance of fun and dreams.


Big thanks to Gilles Marchand for his inspiring chat and to EPFL Alumni, AlumniL, and UNIGE Alumni for financial support.