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Public broadcasting

Cabinet defends SBC’s licence fee

The government has come out against a proposal to scrap licence fees to fund the public Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – the parent company of swissinfo.ch.

Confirming its stance from last August, the government calls on parliament to reject the people’s initiative launched by members of the youth chapters of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the centre-right Radical Party.

“The SBC and those private media companies which partly benefit from [the licence fee] could no longer fulfill their mandate if licence fees were abolished,” a statement from Wednesday said.

As a small country with different languages, Switzerland needs an independent and high-quality offer with news, culture, education and entertainment for all segments of the population, the statement adds. It is key for direct democracy and the integration of different groups of society.

The statement warns that small language minorities in particular would be hardest hit by the proposed abolition of licence fees.

The communications ministry pointed out the current financing structure allowed the SBC to produce similar programmes in four official Swiss languages - German, French, Italian and Romansh.

In June, the government published a report on the future of public media, saying it wanted to stick with the current policy. It drew criticism in parliament, notably from members of the People’s Party.

Mandatory fee

Voters are likely to have the final say on the proposal in the next few years, after campaigners collected more than 112,000 signatures, enough to force a nationwide vote.

They claim that the SBC abuses its dominant market position, imposing its offer on consumers and allegedly wasting funds for bureaucracy and top salaries.

Annual fees of CHF451 ($456) for radio and television programmes are due from every household in Switzerland.

In 2015 Swiss voters narrowly rejected a proposal to reform the SBC funding scheme.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch



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