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Public council condemns cuts at swissinfo

The public council has criticised the cuts at swissinfo swissinfo.ch

The public council of swissinfo has condemned as "incomprehensible" a decision by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation to dismantle the portal.

This content was published on March 29, 2005 - 12:40

The body, which assesses whether swissinfo is carrying out its mandate, said that such an "innovative and successful" multimedia platform should not be abandoned.

The SBC said on March 22 that it would axe up to 80 jobs and eight language services at swissinfo, leaving only a reduced English department. Internet services in the national languages – German, French and Italian – will continue to be produced by SBC’s regional units.

The cuts should result in annual savings of SFr16 million ($13.6 million) a year. The decision is, however, still subject to government approval.

In a statement released on March 23, the public council said that much effort had been invested in the building up of swissinfo/SRI - a replacement for the shortwave radio service, Swiss Radio International.

In this way, the SBC had fulfilled its mandate towards the Swiss abroad, said the council.

But the decision to cut swissinfo to the bone amounted to "a squandering of resources and the abandonment of a strategically successful position".

"swissinfo/SRI has proven itself to be an efficient and cost-effective instrument for a Swiss presence in the world. It has a continuously increasing number of users," said the statement.

The nine-language platform was also a technical and journalistic pioneer in Switzerland, added the council.

Swiss abroad

The council said that swissinfo was an important link for the more than 620,000 Swiss who live abroad and an indispensable source of information for the nearly 100,000 Swiss voters living in other countries.

"The needs of an international public cannot be covered in the [way proposed by SBC] in that production meant for the national market is simply recycled," it said.

The council said that it was convinced that the SBC could only fulfil its mandate towards the Swiss abroad - which was recently renewed by parliament during the debate on the new radio and television law - if it had a special multimedia platform for that purpose.

The Bern-based swissinfo news and information platform was launched in 1999 and is available in nine languages: English, German, French, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese.

Opposition

The centre-left Social Democrat party has also made its opposition to the move known. It wants the House of Representative’s Traffic and Communications’ Commission to look into the SBC’s decision.

It said that the dismantling of swissinfo was "counterproductive" at a time when Switzerland was trying to make its voice heard on the international scene.

The party called on the authorities not to make any hasty decisions concerning the internet portal.

It said that the government should take into account the new radio and television law, the SBC’s online strategy and coordination with Presence Switzerland - the government’s promotion arm - when making its final decision on the future of swissinfo.

swissinfo and agencies

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