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Public broadcaster faces government audit

The SBC will face serious scrutiny from the government Keystone Archive

Communications Minister Moritz Leuenberger has ordered an audit of swissinfo’s parent company, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

This content was published on February 17, 2005 - 21:33

This check, which comes as parliament prepares to review the country’s broadcast law, will determine whether licence fees paid to the SBC are spent appropriately.

The audit will consider whether the fees are used as set out in the public broadcaster’s mandate and whether the SBC is managed according to strict business criteria.

It will also seek to determine whether the SBC's system of internal checks functions correctly.

The communications ministry said on Thursday that the audit was needed to help the government decide what share of the licence fee the SBC should receive under the revised media legislation.

Switzerland’s private broadcasters have been calling for a larger slice of the pie, claiming that they too play an important public-service role.

The ministry admitted that the debate surrounding subsidies to private radio and television stations played a role in the decision to order the audit.

Mandate

Besides setting the SBC’s share of licence fees, the government will also redefine the broadcaster's mandate.

The new mandate will set out the extent to which the SBC can undertake multimedia and internet acitivities, and how these should be financed.

Under the revised broadcast law, the SBC is likely to lose some of its revenue from licence fees, but can probably expect some form of compensation from the government for any losses.

The new legislation is aimed at guaranteeing stronger public-service television and radio, as well as granting more freedom to private broadcasters.

SBC management said it welcomed the audit, adding that it was in its own interest.

The results of the audit, which will be carried out by the finance ministry, are expected early next year.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

SBC revenue in 2003 was SFr1.5 billion ($1.27 billion).
73 per cent of this revenue (SFr1.1 billion) came from licence fees.
20 per cent came from sponsoring and advertising.
The last seven per cent came from the sale of radio and television programmes to other broadcasters.
The SBC runs seven television and 18 radio stations, as well as various multimedia platforms.
Private radio and television stations received just SFr14 million in licence fees in 2003.

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