Trade unions and concerned citizens gathered yesterday evening in the square outside the Swiss parliament to protest against the initiative to abolish the licence fees that fund public broadcasting in the country.
The Berner Zeitung reported on Wednesday that around 1,500 - 2,000 people participated in the demonstration.
Among the crowd were hundreds of journalists who held up candles and lights in support of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo.ch's parent company, and publicly funded media outlets in the country. They warned of a sudden “lights-out” situation, which they say would be the direct consequence of the initiative being accepted.
Swiss citizens go to the polls on March 4 to decide on the fate of the public broadcaster.
The unions regard the hotly debated initiative as an attack on journalism and as the “grave digger” of the free press.
Jerome Hayos, general secretary of the Swiss Media Union SSM said that “No Billag doesn’t mean reducing the public service, it means abolishing it. There is no grey area, it’s a black-and-white situation”. He said that if the initiative was accepted, 13,500 jobs would be at risk.
Also among the protesters was well-known Swiss author Pedro Lenz, interviewed by website ‘Nau’external link on parliament square. “I oppose this dangerous initiative because I don’t want a private German or American company to fill the gap which will be left behind by the SBC. Our public service helps to make Switzerland the diverse and multilingual country that is and this initiative puts these very qualities at risk”.