What is Serafe? Understanding the Swiss TV licence

What is Serafe? Understanding the Swiss TV licence

It’s a fee that almost everyone in Switzerland has to pay in order to access television and radio content: the Serafe TV and radio licence fee is a significant cost for Swiss households and there are very few ways of getting out of paying it.

What is the Swiss television and radio licence?

The licence fee is designed to financially support TV and radio broadcasts by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR). 35 other providers also receive funding to produce programmes across the country, appealing to special interests and language groups like Italian speakers and Romansh communities in the mountains.

88 percent of licence income is sent directly to SRG SSR, 6 percent is sent to 35 private broadcasters, and another 6 percent is used for technological development, audience research and paying for Serafe - the organisation responsible for collecting the licence fee.

According to the SRG SSR, most of the funding is used to generate regional news programmes and Swiss entertainment shows. Unlike other national broadcasters, Swiss television still has advertisements that generate funds for domestic productions.

Paying the Swiss TV and radio licence

Currently, every household in Switzerland is obliged to pay a licence fee, regardless of which TV stations they use or what radio station they listen to. Whether you are watching TV at home or listening to the radio in your car, you have to pay a TV licence fee.

SRG SSR explains that because of the myriad of ways people are able to access content, like through the internet and streaming services, charging a fee based on how many televisions or radios you have no longer makes sense. Instead, a flat fee is now charged that is meant to cover all the possible ways to access content.

Exemptions to paying the Serafe TV licence

According to the SRG SSR, the only exemptions from paying the licence fee are:

  • Households with people who receive an OASI pension or disability insurance
  • Households with no way to receive radio or TV broadcasts (this means you have to prove you don’t have a radio, television, computer, tablet, smartphone or car radio)
  • Households of “deaf-blind people”
  • Households of diplomats 

For more information on exemptions, check out the Serafe website.

How much does a Swiss television and radio licence fee cost?

The cost of the licence fee is set by the government and can also be changed through referendums. The latest revision was made in 2019, which reduced the cost of the licence fee and combined the cost of a radio and television licence into one package.

Currently, the licence fee for a private household is 335 Swiss francs, payable as an annual lump sum or quarterly invoices. Only one payment has to be made per household.

History of the TV licence in Switzerland

Pre-1998, fees for television, radio and phones were collected as part of a monthly bill from Swisscom, the nation's former public telecom provider. After 1998, when Swisscom was partially privatised, it created Billag AG, which was responsible for collecting the licence until the transfer to Serafe in 2019.

Serafe, or the Swiss Collection Agency for the Radio and Television Fee, is the organisation responsible for collecting the fee for the TV and radio licence. Despite the high cost, Swiss voters rejected the idea of scrapping the licence fee by 71 percent in a referendum in 2018.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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