Switzerland could lose most of its public media

The Swiss will be heading to the polls on March 4 to vote on the “No Billag” initiative, which intends on scrapping the compulsory TV and radio license fees, on which publicly-funded media rely to survive.

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Source: Le Temps
Switzerland could lose most of its public media - NewsMavens
Zurich. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SSR) pilots five TV channels and 17 radio channels across the country. These will no longer exist if the country decides to get rid of license fees. In fact, the company depends almost entirely on this income flow to uphold itself (license fees make up 75% of its income).

The vote was brought on by a wave of hostility towards SSR. Some taxpayers did not want to keep on paying for economic reasons, but many also questioned the integrity and relevance of the media.

If it feels as though this initiative is out of tune with the times -- given that the media landscape is battling with titans such as Facebook and Google -- it’s because it is. With four official languages and 26 incredibly diverse cantons, Switzerland is a complex country. It needs a local voice to give fair and even coverage to the entire country, otherwise the reality of one group could dominate others. Or worse, the Swiss could be condemned to rely on questionable social media information for news about their own country.


Details from the story:

  • The "No Billag" initiative is supported by many different groups, including citizens no longer willing to pay and ultra-liberal politicians who want to minimize public spending.
  • Experts believe that the private sector alone will not be able to match the diversity currently offered by media backed by the SSR
  • At times when most countries are coming to realize the importance of fostering local enterprises, the move comes across as an anachronistic cop-out to globalization.
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