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Senate gives strong backing for swissinfo

The Swiss parliament acknowleges the importance of the internet platform swissinfo

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss Senate says the federal authorities should fund "at least half" the budget of the multimedia internet platform, swissinfo.

Discussions on the issue are set to continue in parliament, which hopes to wrap up the debate on an amended radio and television law during the current winter session.

The Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously in favour of a proposal which would commit the federal authorities to providing at least 50 per cent of swissinfo's budget.

Senators originally wanted to scrap the federal subsidy as part of wide-ranging public spending cuts. This would have left funding of the internet platform in the hands of swissinfo's parent company, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

The SBC announced earlier this year that it intended to drastically cut back swissinfo and axe up to 80 jobs, leaving only an English website.

But senators have now had a change of heart, saying they recognise the importance of broadcasting information on Switzerland to an audience abroad.

Senator Peter Briner, who chairs the foreign affairs committee, told swissinfo that it was worth fighting for continued federal funding of a public internet platform.

"I think the personal efforts by individual parliamentarians, such as Senator Filippo Lombardi made the difference and prompted politicians to change their minds," he said.

More debate

But Wednesday's decision by the Senate does not mark the end of the affair. The House of Representatives, the other parliamentary chamber, has still to agree on the extent of federal funding for swissinfo.

The House is also due to consider a proposal by the Senate, which would commit the government to ensuring the survival of swissinfo in its present form with a service in nine languages.

Discussions in parliament are expected to be completed by the end of the current three-week winter session.

Rudolf Wyder, director of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad, welcomed the Senate decision.

"It is a big boost for swissinfo, even if the debate is not quite over yet. I think politicians have understood the importance of a Swiss presence abroad and for Swiss expatriates in particular. They appear to appreciate the role swissinfo can play."

Wyder added that about 600,000 expatriates – one in ten Swiss citizens – live abroad.

"Today's decision is a bit like a Christmas present, but it was a long and hard battle," he said.

swissinfo

Key facts

The discussions on swissinfo are part of amendments to the radio and television law.
They include sharing licence fees between the public television and private companies, as well as a ban on advertisements for alcoholic beverages.
The debate is expected to wrap up at the end of the winter session.

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