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swissinfo is "indispensable"

The planned restructuring would result in about 80 job losses Keystone

swissinfo’s public council says only a specialised news service is capable of fulfilling the international mandate of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

This content was published on June 21, 2005 - 16:03

The council, which assesses the service provided by swissinfo, is against the SBC’s plans to dismantle the website, leaving only a reduced English department.

The council said swissinfo was "indispensable" in providing the more than 600,000 Swiss living abroad with adequate information about their country, and was Switzerland’s voice in the world.

It said, besides news, an international service needed to provide analysis, feature reports and background information in order to maintain credibility.

The council described the planned dismantling of eight of swissinfo’s nine language services as a "great loss for the SBC and the country".

"swissinfo reaches 86 per cent of internet users worldwide and is continuing to experience rapid growth," the council said in a statement on Tuesday.

The website currently averages ten million page views a month.

Audience loss

"A large part of the internet audience will be lost if the SBC goes ahead with its planned cuts," the council added, warning the SBC not to bury its head in the sand.

It said the restructuring would lessen Switzerland’s ability to communicate with the world.

It called for the preservation of the services in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese, saying Switzerland could not afford to ignore the economic and political importance of the countries where these languages are spoken.

The council also said swissinfo was an invaluable service for the 100,000 Swiss abroad with voting rights, by providing them with "detailed, objective, accurate and politically neutral" information ahead of votes and referenda.

The council statement came two weeks after the Swiss senate supported a motion to maintain the multilingual, multimedia site.

swissinfo has also received the support of various parliamentary committees, some of which have called for the government to restore funding for the international service, which runs out at the end of the year.

As a reaction to the budget cuts, the SBC announced in March that it would axe up to 80 jobs and eight of swissinfo’s nine language services. Internet services in the national languages – German, French, Italian – would be produced by SBC’s regional units.

swissinfo

Key facts

swissinfo offers news and information in English, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.
It registers around 10 million page views a month.
The multilingual, multimedia site provides a service for 600,000 Swiss living abroad, including 100,000 with voting rights, and is the voice of Switzerland in the world.
The public council of swissinfo represents the interests of the public, when assessing whether the international service is fulfilling its mandate.

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