Switzerland moves to cut the Serafe TV licence fee
After a referendum calling for a reduction in the Swiss TV licence fee recently gained enough support to be voted on, the Swiss government has revealed its own plans to reform the system. The proposal would see the TV and radio licence fee in Switzerland reduced by 35 francs a year, but those within the media have warned that the cuts to funding will inevitably lead to a reduction in service.
New plans to cut mandatory Swiss TV licence fee
In a statement on October 8, the Federal Council announced its plans to cut the TV licence fee in Switzerland. Barring a few highly isolated cases - to not pay the fee, you have to prove you have no means of receiving a broadcast, including not having a radio in your car or a mobile phone - every household is required to pay 335 francs a year to Serafe, with the proceeds going to support the SRG public broadcasters (SRF, RTS and RSI), radio stations and several regional outlets.
Under the new plans, individual households would only have to pay 312 francs a year from 2027 and just 300 francs a year from 2029. Homes with multiple households like student accommodation would see the fee fall to 600 francs a year by 2029. What’s more, businesses with annual sales of less than 1,2 billion francs - approximately 60.000 companies - would be made exempt from Serafe from 2027.
Swiss Federal Council moves to counter the SRG Initiative
The move is seen as a way of countering the “200 francs are enough!" (SRG Initiative), a proposal by elements of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which would see the licence fee fall to, as the name suggests, 200 francs a year. In the statement, the Federal Council noted that this would reduce the public broadcaster’s budget from 1,25 billion to 650 million francs a year.
Speaking at a press conference in Bern, Media Minister Albert Rösti (SVP) said the referendum, if approved, “Would have far-reaching consequences for the journalistic offerings and the size and structure of the federally organised SRG.” He argued that the government’s proposal was a middle ground between maintaining public broadcasting and cutting costs for residents.
SRF, RTS and RSI likely to face job cuts, Rösti reveals
However, Rösti added that even his plan would require the SRG to make sacrifices, with authorities demanding that the broadcaster cut costs and turn away from politically controversial dramas and soaps - one of the main drivers behind the SRG Initiative - and towards content focused on information, education and culture. It should also remain available in all four languages of Switzerland.
When it comes to entertainment shows and sports, Rösti argued that the SRG should focus on what is not covered by streaming services and private broadcasters. Finally, he admitted that while the measures are not as extreme as the SRG Initiative, “several hundred” people could still lose their jobs.
The Federal Council argued the new fee reflects the new viewing habits of the Swiss, who are increasingly using streaming services to get their entertainment shows. They concluded that reducing the fee was also a small way to ease the cost of living.
Public and private broadcasters in Switzerland under strain
For their part, the SRG said it welcomed the government’s decision to counter the SRG Initiative, but said the current plan would “inevitably have negative effects on the programme, for example in the areas of regional information, sports productions, co-productions of Swiss films and music recordings as well as major popular events... staff would also be affected.”
The announcement also comes at a time when private media outlets are also having to cut workers in Switzerland. Most recently, CH media - owners of a number of regional newspapers, and TV and radio stations - announced that they would be cutting 150 jobs due to declining sales.
The Federal Council proposal will now be subject to public consultation until February 1, 2024. They hope to send the plan to parliament before the 2024 summer holidays, with the proposal hopefully in place before the SRG initiative will be put to a public vote, which is expected in 2026.
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