Switzerland Votes to Continue Public Support for National Broadcaster
In a national vote on March 4th, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative to end license fees for public radio and TV broadcasting. More than 71% of Swiss voters voted against the “No Billag” initiative, thus assuring continued support for public broadcasting.
The license fees provide 70% of the funding for the country’s national broadcaster, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR), a non-profit which controls seven TV channels and 17 radio stations. The Corporation airs programs in all four of the nation’s official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh).
The issue provoked contentious debate that, according to a news release by the Deutsche Welle, ”divided the country on political and generational lines.”
Campaigners for the initiative – and against the license fee – argued that many Swiss are forced to pay for television programs they have no interest in. The “No Billag” movement consists largely of young people – whose taste in media takes them to the internet rather than television or radio. Younger members of the libertarian Free Democratic Party led the no-license campaign.
Those who voted for continued license fees contended that a small country like Switzerland must have “a national broadcaster which reflects its cultural and linguistic diversity,” as BBC.com reports. A national broadcaster, these supporters claim, fosters national unity. Deutsche Welle also saw an egalitarian motive in the pro-license voters: a for-profit media environment “would largely target German-speaking areas, where most wealth is accumulated… The poorer French-speaking and Italian-speaking regions would inevitably be disadvantaged in their media access.”
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