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“New beginning” as Swiss vote to retain licence fee

Overwhelming 71 per cent of public choose to continue paying annual charge

The Swiss public have voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the TV and radio licence fee. 

A total of 71 per cent of voters chose to continue paying the annual fee, rejecting the ‘No Billag’ initiative filed in late 2015.

In Switzerland, the public has the right to propose an amendment to the constitution if they can collect over 100,000 signatures in favour of any given initiative. After consideration by the Federal Council and National Assembly, the initiative then goes to a public vote.

Despite these efforts, No Billag has failed to gain the traction it once promised, and was rejected across all of Switzerland’s linguistic regions.

If No Billag had succeeded, it would have led to the closure of EBU Member SRG SSR and left Switzerland as the only European country without a public service broadcaster.

EBU director general Noel Curran said: “We are delighted that the public have voted in such huge numbers to retain the licence fee in Switzerland.

“This is a real vote of confidence in public service media and its critical role in enriching the cultural, social, economic and democratic life of society.

“The campaign has also afforded all of us an opportunity to reflect on the future of public service media and on the lessons learned.”

Gilles Marchand, director general of SRG SSR, added: “This campaign has facilitated a broad debate about the role and the place of public service broadcasting in a media landscape undergoing full-scale upheaval.

“However, the outcome of the vote is not the end of things for SRG SSR. It is a new beginning. It obliges us to adapt our enterprise to our new operating climate and to the changing needs of society, as we listen to its expectations and its criticisms.

“It is also a very strong signal to the whole of Europe in that, for the first time, public service broadcasting has been able to base its legitimacy directly on the support of the general electorate.”