The Swiss have largely refused Sunday to remove the audiovisual fee, in a referendum organized at the request of the youth movement of the Radical Liberal Party. More than seven out of ten Swiss voters voted no to No Billag. They want to maintain the public broadcasting system in the country.
That is to say that all across the country, yes supporters have suffered a stinging defeat. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR) is delighted, but still needs to revise its programming.
The Swiss voted no to 71.6% on the abolition of the fee, according to the final results published by the Swiss news agency ATS.
Participation was more than 54%, well above the average participation in recent years (around 45%). In the canton of Zurich, the most populated, the no exceeds 71%, while in Geneva, it is close to 75%. In the canton of Bern, it exceeds 75%, while in those of Jura and Neuchâtel, it rises to more than 78%.
As soon as the polls closed, the Swiss Radio Television (RTS), the French-speaking network of the SRG SSR, announced that the canton of Zurich would vote no more than 70% to No Billag, the name of the initiative referring to the company responsible for collecting the fee. The final results will echo this first projection.
For Sébastien Faure, producer of the program Mise à point at the RTS, the important victory of the no “was a very good surprise for the employees. Nobody had risked putting a 7 in front of the number. Nobody believed in a 70% no. We feel appreciated.”
Yes campaign leader in French-speaking Switzerland, Nicolas Jutzet, is still satisfied with the debate. He thinks their campaign has broken some taboos by attacking the public broadcaster’s record. He admits, however, that ending the royalty system, without a transitional phase, worried the Swiss too much.
The initiative was perhaps too ambitious and it scared some Swiss people who wanted change, but not the scale we were proposing.
Nicolas Jutzet, leader of the yes campaign
A victory without triumphalism
Despite this clear victory, the day after this vote does not look rosy for the SRG SSR. In the coming months, the company will need to save 100 million Swiss francs (more than 135 million dollars).
From 2019, a new fee system will be put in place. The bill for households paying for television and radio will increase from 451 to 365 Swiss francs. The portion of royalties distributed to SRG SSR will be capped at 1.2 billion Swiss francs. The company must also anticipate declining advertising revenues, a quarter of its current budget.
What does the royalty finance?
Most of the proceeds from the license fee are donated to the only national broadcaster, the SSR, which broadcasts in the four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh). Some 21 radio stations and 13 regional television stations fulfilling a public service mandate also benefit from it. The SSR, which employs around 6000 people, is 75% financed by the fee. In total, 13500 direct and indirect jobs were threatened, in case of yes to the abolition of the royalty. ( With AFP )
Philippa De Roten, Director of Society and Culture Programs at RTS, speaks about a historic vote.
This is the first time that a public service is legitimized by the people in Europe.
Philippa De Roten, RTS
However, she says in the same breath that “we will have to think about renovating the way we are distributed, produced and financed. ”
And to this is added the threat of a new vote that could be launched by one of the main parties in the country, the Democratic Union Center (UDC), which wants to further reduce the household bill.
An initiative that would be supported by Nicolas Jutzet, belonging to the youth wing of the Radical Liberal Party. “The problem remains whole, because it is philosophical. We will obviously support any solution that alleviates the citizen and stops imposing this burden. So, a solution that goes in a more liberal sense. What matters most to us in the coming reforms is that businesses stop paying this fee. ”
But for Sébastien Faure, in the light of the results of today’s vote, perhaps “the UDC will think twice before launching.”
Diane Elliot is a seasoned journalist with nearly 12 years experience. While studying journalism at University of Southern California, Diane found a passion for finding engaging stories. As a contributor to Coastal Morning Star, Diane mostly covers human interest pieces.