Swiss in Britain reject cuts to swissinfo

swissinfo's fate is currently in the hands of Swiss parliamentarians swissinfo.ch

Swiss expatriates in Britain have backed a resolution rejecting the proposed cuts to the service offered by swissinfo.

This content was published on June 6, 2005 - 07:40

At a meeting of the Federation of Swiss Societies in the United Kingdom, delegates said the plans to dismantle the online news platform were "unacceptable".

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – swissinfo’s parent company – announced in March that it intended to close down all but one of the internet site’s nine language services with the loss of about 80 jobs.

The English service would continue but with a 50 per cent reduction in staff.

The SBC maintains that it was left with no choice but to restructure the service after the government withdrew foreign-ministry funding for swissinfo, formerly known as Swiss Radio International.

Resolution approved

The resolution against the cuts was agreed on Saturday by more than 50 members of the federation at their annual meeting in the British seaside town of Broadstairs.

Joe Broggini, a member of the federation’s committee, said he would submit the resolution – signed on behalf of the more than 26,000 Swiss expatriates in Britain – to the federal authorities in Bern.

"The federation is very grieved by the SBC’s proposal to restructure swissinfo," said Broggini.

The motion, announced in the presence of Switzerland’s ambassador to Britain, Alexis Lautenberg, calls on the SBC to retain swissinfo as an "independent division".

"swissinfo must remain at its present headquarters [in Bern] and with its present staffing contingency. It is the source of information and the voice of all Swiss living abroad... and as such it provides a public service clearly anchored in the SBC’s mandate."

The future of swissinfo is currently in the hands of Swiss parliamentarians, who are in the process of debating a new radio and television law.

A decision on how and whether the online news service should fit into future federal legislation is not expected before the autumn.

Lobbying underway

Peter Sutter, a senior official at the Swiss foreign ministry, told delegates at the meeting that he was working with the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad to lobby parliamentarians.

"[We are doing this because] we think that it would be more than regrettable if the SBC dismantles swissinfo [during the period while the new law is debated]," he said.

The resolution agreed on Saturday is the latest in a series of motions put forward by communities of Swiss citizens living abroad.

Swiss expatriates in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands have already voiced their concerns about the future of swissinfo.

swissinfo was set up in 1999 as the online successor to Swiss Radio International, which ceased broadcasting in 2004.

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh in Broadstairs

In brief

swissinfo has about 120 employees.

In March its parent company, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, announced plans to cut about 80 jobs.

The restructuring plans are currently on hold, pending approval by the communications ministry and discussions in parliament about a new radio and television law.

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Key facts

swissinfo was set up in 1999. It is the online successor to Swiss Radio International, which ceased broadcasting in 2004.
Its headquarters are in the Swiss capital, Bern.
The multimedia internet platform is available in nine languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese.

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