SRG to put together a 50-million savings package starting in 2019

SRG wants to put together an austerity package in view of the reduction in fee money. The Swiss Syndicate of Media Professionals (SSM) fears massive consequences for the staff. The trade association and the No Billag initiative have sharply criticized the Federal Council's decisions.


For the package of measures, the SRG wants to prioritize the best possible preservation of today's programming, as it announced on Wednesday. The cut will take effect on January 1, 2019, and is in line with the intentions expressed by the Federal Council at the time of the adoption of the new Radio and Television Act (RTVA) in 2015.

The capping of fee income at CHF 1.2 billion announced by Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard would correspond to a reduction of around CHF 50 million compared to today. This cut, combined with the decline in advertising revenues, will have a significant impact on SRG's budget as early as 2019.

The Swiss Syndicate of Media Professionals SSM again fears massive effects on SRG's staff and programming. The last round of cuts in 2016 had cost around 250 full-time positions and led to numerous redundancies.

The remaining staff is already close to the limit of overload. If the same number of jobs were to be cut again, it would hardly be possible to maintain the current range of programs.

The SSM expects SRG to implement the cost-cutting measures without layoffs and with as few job cuts as possible. The SSM will insist in the social partnership dialogue with SRG that the negative consequences of the decision are implemented in a socially responsible manner.

Committee welcomes relief for households

The non-partisan committee "No to No Billag" has welcomed the reduction of the levy by 20 percent. This would be a considerable financial relief for all households and consumers would have to pay less for the same offer. In addition, small and medium-sized companies would be exempt from the levy or would have to pay lower contributions.

The committee, which includes members from all parties, now intends to campaign with full force against the No Billag initiative, which will be put to the vote on March 4, 2018. The popular initiative represents an attack on regional and linguistic media diversity in Switzerland and also on the functioning of democracy.

The Swiss Trade Association is calling for all companies to be exempted from the "arbitrary media tax". Although companies could not listen to the radio or watch television, they should continue to pay up to 35,530 francs per year, according to Media Minister Doris Leuthard.

The actions of the media minister document once again that she wants to prevent the promised fundamental discussion about the content and scope of the public service. Before the amount of the media tax can be set, it must be discussed and defined what services are expected, the trade association demands.

The No Billag Initiative sees the Federal Council's decision on fees as a tactical decision with regard to the initiative scheduled for March 4, 2018. However, nothing has changed in the initial situation, said Andreas Kleb, who is responsible for the media, in response to a question. It is still a compulsory fee.

Nor would there be less revenue. On the contrary, according to the narrowly adopted new Radio and Television Act (RTVG), the fee would be distributed over more shoulders: All larger companies and SMEs with a turnover of 500,000 Swiss francs or more would have to pay the compulsory fee, which is no longer appropriate, even though most of them do not use radio and television at all.

Further commercialization feared

The Swiss Media Association (VSM) has welcomed the Federal Council's announcement to cap SRG's fee income. However, it fears a further commercialization of SRG. Precisely because global challengers such as Google and Facebook are skimming off a growing share of the advertising market via digital channels, it is elementary that the SRG does not in turn endanger the livelihood of private media.

The SRG must not jeopardize the digital pay models of the private broadcasters with fee-financed, press-like free offerings. The new media law must set clear limits for the SRG. (SDA)

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