swissinfo online service to be cut to bone
The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) says it will axe up to 80 jobs and eight language services at swissinfo, leaving only a reduced English department.
The corporation’s board said on Tuesday that it was acting in response to the government's decision to end funding for swissinfo.
The cuts should result in annual savings of SFr16 million ($13.6 million) a year.
The Council of the Swiss Abroad – the organisation representing the interests of more than 600,000 Swiss living abroad – condemned the move, which comes one year after a previous round of restructuring.
swissinfo’s 120 employees were informed about the decision at a meeting with SBC President Jean-Bernard Münch, SBC Director General Armin Walpen and swissinfo Director Beat Witschi in Bern on Tuesday.
"swissinfo will still have an English service and produce special dossiers in the national languages for the Swiss abroad – information that they won’t be able to find elsewhere," Walpen said in an interview with swissinfo (see related items).
The restructuring is expected to result in between 70 and 80 job losses. Most of the remaining posts will consist of IT and web development staff.
The employees’ union, SSM, said it would fight the plans, which are expected to be implemented by the end of 2006 at the latest.
The Bern-based news and information platform was launched in 1999 as the internet arm of Swiss Radio International. It is available in nine languages: English, German, French, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese.
The SBC’s president and director were not able to say when the eight language services would be cut.
Internet services in the national languages – German, French and Italian – will continue to be produced by SBC’s regional units.
The SBC said it would try to reassign as many staff as possible to other parts of its operations, and that workers facing redundancy would be offered a "good social plan".
swissinfo/Swiss Radio International cut 26 jobs last year after losing its government subsidy. On October 30 radio broadcasts were ended, allowing swissinfo to concentrate exclusively on internet journalism.
The Council of the Swiss Abroad said it was "unacceptable" to dismantle swissinfo before a planned new radio and television law had come into force. It said swissinfo must be guaranteed sufficient resources to secure its future.
The SSM said that if the plans were implemented it would mean the end of Swiss Radio International and its successor, swissinfo. Although the SBC and parliament recognised the value of swissinfo as the "voice of Switzerland abroad", nobody wanted to pay for this public service, the union said.
Swiss Radio International was founded in 1934, and broadcast round the world on shortwave – and later also satellite – for 70 years.
In 2004, the government provided SFr17 million in funding for swissinfo, and reduced it to SFr5 million for 2005 – the last year that it will subsidise the international service.
The budget cuts led to 25 redundancies in 2004 and the SBC plans call for about 80 more jobs to be cut by the end of 2006.
swissinfo was launched in 1999 as the internet arm of Swiss Radio International, which ceased its broadcasts last October.
swissinfo/Swiss Radio International is part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
Its task is to inform Swiss abroad about events in their homeland and to raise awareness of Switzerland in other countries.
Besides TV and multimedia productions, swissinfo/SRI produces three specialist music programmes: Swiss Pop, Swiss Classic and Swiss Jazz.
Founded in 1934, it employs 120 workers.
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More: SWI swissinfo.ch certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative
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