Professor and a member of the Faculty of Communication Sciences at USI Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, Switzerland
Communications professionals need not have a law degree to navigate the critical legal issues relevant to their work, but a basic understanding of the law and how it applies in business is essential. Professor Bertil Cottier, Professor of Law with the Università della Svizzera italiana's Communication Sciences faculty, has taught Communications Law with EMScom since 1999.
"From the beginning of EMScom, organizers thought it useful for EMScom participants to have a basic knowledge of communication law: what you're allowed to do and not allowed to do under the law," said Cottier, whose course familiarizes EMScom's international student body with the limits legislators and courts have established to protect public and private interests.
Cottier's EMScom seminar presents the background, objectives and impact of legal norms and judicial decisions important to communication, ranging from freedom of expression and right to know to privacy protection, copyright and right of reply. When EMScom's organizers were preparing to launch the program, Cottier, who also is an Associate Professor of Law with the University of Lausanne, was intrigued by the opportunity to get in touch with communication professionals and learn about the legal issues they face in everyday business life.
"As a lawyer and as an academic, I'm relatively far away from the everyday issues that communications professionals face. I deal with legal topics, but not on the front lines, so it's important for me to have knowledge from the front," said Cottier. "From the beginning, I've thought of my involvement with EMScom as an exchange between the students and me, and that exchange is important to me because it challenges me and offers me real insights into the real problems faced by communication professionals."
In turn, Cottier provides his EMScom classes with an interactive overview of both legal theory and case law relevant in business communications.
"I think the highly interactive teaching system of EMScom is one of the program's big advantages, due to the fact that the participants are professionals and they always have a critical approach," he said. "They raise the bar for the faculty and I consider that a good thing for myself as a teacher. If you only go along with the classical students who are younger and less likely to challenge you on practical issues, you won't evolve."
Diversity a plus
Cottier said the diversity of EMScom's participants presents another challenge. "These are excellent professionals.
Some have very strong academic backgrounds, while others have fought all of their professional lives to overcome a lack of academic background," he explained. "There also is diversity among EMScom participants' areas of interest, and that challenges me because I'm teaching communication law as it applies to both the public and the private sectors."
Another challenge, Cottier said, is EMScom's ever-expanding international scope.
"We always have had one or two international students, because the program was established in Switzerland and most of the participants came to us from Swiss companies. Now, we're seeing many more EMScom participants coming from abroad, and I'm looking forward to this challenge; although most of the legal rules still rely on a national system, we must look at other nations' system and take that into account. What participants learn is that the systems are diverse and that one’s national system isn't necessarily the best one; another system might offer more efficient solutions."
Looking back at his eight years with EMScom, Cottier said he has seen the EMScom become a truly top-tier, international executive program for communications professionals.
High level program, participants
"The directors of EMScom have invested a huge amount of time and resources in shaping and always reevaluating the program, always trying to make it better, and that's a huge benefit to participants because it keeps EMScom fresh and at a high level," he said.
"I am proud to teach in EMScom because I consider it such a high level program, very well managed and drawing very high quality participants. EMScom participants are Europe's top level communication directors originating from extremely diverse institutions, ranging from banks and insurance companies to the department of defense," Cottier said. "The participants all have long and brilliant professional backgrounds, coming to EMScom with 10 to 15 years of experience. I believe they set an example for younger communication students and professionals."