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Senate opposes swissinfo cutbacks

Filippo Lombardi, whose motion to save swissinfo has just been backed by the Senate Keystone Archive

The Senate has voted to maintain swissinfo, the nine-language multimedia news and information platform.

The vote could force the government to oppose plans to dismantle the Swiss news portal.

By 19 votes to 16, the parliamentary chamber backed a motion put forward by Filippo Lombardi.

Lombardi, a Christian Democrat parliamentarian, argued that swissinfo is Switzerland’s best multimedia portal and the planned cutbacks are unacceptable.

On March 21 the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – swissinfo’s parent company – announced that it intended to close down all but one of the multimedia platform’s nine language services with the loss of about 80 jobs.

The English service would continue but with a 50 per cent reduction in staff.

The SBC maintains that it was left with no choice but to restructure the service after the government withdrew its funding for swissinfo, formerly known as Swiss Radio International.

Political decision

Either the communications ministry or the federal government will decide whether the SBC can go ahead with its restructuring plans.

The ministry, headed by Moritz Leuenberger, will examine the SBC’s proposed changes along with the foreign and finance ministries.

Only then will a decision be made – probably in the autumn.

Leuenberger had recommended that Lombardi’s motion be rejected on technical grounds. He said the SBC had submitted its new concept for approval and was entitled to a legitimate examination procedure before the government’s final decision.

Widespread resistance

The plans to make cutbacks to swissinfo have triggered widespread resistance.

The radical restructuring would be accompanied by the loss of an important part of the Swiss presence in the world, groups representing the Swiss abroad have argued.

swissinfo not only reports on the latest developments in Swiss news, it also makes a significant contribution towards bringing peoples around the world closer together and closer to the Swiss perspective of international events, supporters claim.

swissinfo was set up in 1999 as the online successor to Swiss Radio International, which ceased broadcasting in 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

Plans by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) to dismantle swissinfo have triggered large-scale opposition.

Two parliamentary commissions have demanded that the nine-language news portal continue.

A Senate commission has demanded a debate on the SBC’s public service remit with regard to the Swiss Abroad mandate.

On Thursday the Senate backed a motion demanding the continued existence of swissinfo.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR