Switzerland, like the UK, charges households an essentially unavoidable broadcasting fee. The money raised is used to fund public news and entertainment. However, the fee is divisive. Some view it as a necessity to ensure the public is well informed. Others see its unavoidable nature as an affront to personal liberty. A public vote to eliminate the fee in 2015 was rejected by 71.6% of voters. However, bringing the fee to the political forefront focused minds on its cost, currently CHF 335. This week, the Federal Council announced that it has a plan to cut the annual fee to CHF 300, reported RTS.
The plan aims to deliver the new lower CHF 300 fee between now and 2029. Companies automatically pay when their turnover hits CHF 500,000. The plan would push this threshold to CHF 1.2 million, cutting the hefty fees paid by many small businesses.
The government has been spurred into action by a pending vote, one that rather than aiming to axe the fee aims to have it cut to CHF 200. The government will be hoping that a modest fee cut will help to nudge voters to reject the upcoming vote. If it is accepted, revenue from the fee will fall from CHF 1.25 million to CHF 650,000, a move that would have serious repercussions on public broadcasting in Switzerland, say media experts.
Gilles Marchand, the head of public broadcasting in Switzerland, said he’s torn on the government’s plan. On one hand he sees the need to appease those who want to cut the fee to CHF 200, but on the other he’s concerned about the impact lower revenue could have on the broadcaster. The planned cut comes at a time when Swiss media in general are facing considerable challenges. The media landscape has become extremely fragmented with the development of social media, fake news and an over reliance on international platforms, said Marchand. We need to invest in those producing quality information and in Switzerland. Weakening broadcasting generally in Switzerland is dangerous for everyone concerned, he said.