How the Swiss abroad keep up-to-date with news from home

The Swiss abroad community deplores that they can't watch programmes by Switzerland's public broadcasters outside the country Keystone

Satellite television, internet, the main Swiss newspaper sites, free or behind a paywall: asked its Facebook followers how they are keeping informed about the forthcoming vote on abolishing the licence fee for public service broadcasting.

This content was published on January 23, 2018 - 11:00

The poll can’t claim to be representative, but it gives a sense of how the Swiss living around the world use domestic media to inform themselves, only six weeks ahead of a nationwide vote on a proposal to scrap the mandatory licence fees that fund the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), of which is a part.

We posted an appeal on our Facebook pageExternal link in several languages. Here’s a selection of responses from our readers in German, French and English.

The German-language public SRF channel is praised by internet users. B.B., a Swiss expatriate in Thailand, is enthusiastic.

“SRF is the best channel, notably because of its sports coverage. With Euro.tvasia we can get about 30 different channels in German, including SRF, for 700 bahts (CHF20 or $21) a month,” he says.

"SRF is the best channel, notably because of its sports coverage. Avec Euro.tvasia we can get about 30 different channels in German, including SRF."

B.B., Thailand

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The internet seems to be the favoured media for most of the expats who responded, who want to stay in touch with their country of origin.

V.R., who lives in Belgium, says that she uses, the newspapers Tribune de Genève and Le Temps, for which she bought an online subscription. However, V.R. and many others regret that SBC’s television programmes are blocked on the internet and can’t be watched outside Switzerland.

“I wish I could watch programmes on politics on demand, notably about certain votes, and I was disappointed to find out that these are not accessible,” she says.

Several readers in France, Belgium and the United States who responded in French said their main source of information about Switzerland is the French-language TV5-Monde channelExternal link, which has a worldwide audience of about 60 million.

“I occasionally watch the news programme on the public RTS channel, which is also broadcast at 8 PM on TV5-Monde,” says W.B., a Swiss pensioner who lives in Chad.

News from the hometown

One reader living in Austria writes in English that staying in touch with what’s happening in her hometown is important to her, so she keeps track of news through French-language RTS and local media websites.

“I wish I could watch programmes on politics on demand, notably about certain votes, and I was disappointed to find out that these are not accessible.”

V.R., Belgium  

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Another commenter living in Canada says he gets Swiss news through referred articles from Facebook, or from SRF’s television programmes.

“I will vote NO for the upcoming vote as an independent press is necessary in each and every country,” he writes on Facebook.

Others commented on the amount of the license fee, with one Facebook user arguing that “the fee is too high” and a problem for poor people, while another agreed that “the compulsory Billag tax [the licence fee] looks a bit stiff, especially for the working poor”. 

Complementing regional newspapers as well as the Swiss ReviewExternal link, the magazine for the Swiss Abroad community, are cited as information sources, often alongside online sites of regional newspapers.

“I read the Basler Zeitung, the Berner Zeitung and,” says T.K. who settled in Sierra Leone.

Others deplore the fact that Swiss Radio International (SRI),’s predecessor on shortwave, stopped broadcasting in 2004.

“ doesn’t do too much for me, I’m afraid. The offer by SRI suited me better as a Swiss living abroad,“ says U.H.

Technical issues

In some cases, technical limitations make it difficult to find information on Switzerland.

“Where I live in Asia, it is not possible to receive programmes from Switzerland. The connection over the internet is too weak, so can’t watch TV using Wilma or over another similar sites,” says P.H. “Therefore I have to rely on radio programmes or the [tabloid] Blick newspaper.”

P.G. who lives in Indonesia, continues in the same vein. “I can’t receive [any Swiss TV programmes], so I get the news through online versions of the Swiss dailies.”

But despite certain difficulties, the internet and new communication channels have drastically changed the way the Swiss diaspora keeps up-to-date with what’s going on in their country of origin, and particularly to help them form an opinion ahead of votes and elections.

“The Swiss abroad are no longer cut off from the Swiss media to the extent as they might have been 25 years ago,” says Thomas Milic, a political scientist at the Centre for Democracy Studies in AarauExternal link.

They have access to the same sources of information as the Swiss residents, some even watch SBC television programmes.

“They can follow the debates and campaigns as they happen, as if they were in Switzerland,” Milic says.

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