Radio and TV licence fee vote to be held next March

The mandatory licence fee costs just over CHF450 annually. Opponents want to do away with it, others seek a reduction Keystone

Voters will decide on March 4, 2018 on a proposal to scrap the mandatory licence fee for services of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), including swissinfo.ch.

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On the same day, voters will also have the final say on a proposal to extend the right of the government to raise value added tax and the direct federal tax until 2035, according to a statement by the Federal Chancellery.

It will be the first in a series of up to four nationwide votes next year.

Role of SBC 

The people’s initiative, also known as No Billag, calls for the abolition of the CHF452 ($461) annual licence fee. However, both the government and parliament recommended rejection of the proposal.

Proponents of the initiative argue the SBC is too dominant and hampers private media operators.

Up to 73% of the SBC revenue comes from licence fees, but part of it also goes to private regional operators.

The SBC warned its services in four of the national languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh - were important for the cohesion of the country.

Lower licence fee

Meanwhile, the government has decided to lower the annual licence fee to CHF365 as of the beginning of 2019.

"It will be a noticeable reduction for most households," said Communications Minister Doris Leuthard at a news conference on Wednesday.

Notably small and medium-sized enterprises will be exempted from the fee.

She said the decisions were the result of a 2015 nationwide referendum on changing the licence funding system.

The SBC will have its licence revenue capped at CHF1.2 billion annually from 2019. It means that the public broadcaster will have to cut its current budget by CHF40 million.

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