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Parliament Licence fee for radio and TV wins approval

Communications Minister Leuthard addressing the Senate during the debate on public service broadcasting

(Keystone)

The Senate has unanimously rejected a proposal to scrap compulsory licence fees for the services of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

The issue goes next to the other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, before Swiss voters will have the final say. The youth chapters of rightwing and centre-right parties spearheaded the initiative.

During a long debate on Wednesday, several speakers warned that Switzerland’s direct democracy and cultural diversity with four national languages would be in jeopardy if licence fees were scrapped.

They added that a reliable, independent service by the SBC was crucial in times of rampant “fake news”.

However, the Senate didn’t spare the SBC from criticism, saying the public broadcaster had to be willing to adapt to the changing media reality.

For her part, Communications Minister Doris Leuthard agreed the SBC had to tackle digitalisation and be “more modest” in its attitude towards the private media sector. She said public service media cost the consumer less than an offer by private providers.

The SBC, the parent company of swissinfo.ch, gets its financial backing mainly from an annual licence fee of CHF451 ($445) owed by every private household.

Next week, parliament is also due to discuss a report by a government advisory commission on the future of public service media.

swissinfo.ch with agencies/urs


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