Reporters without Borders Switzerland speaks out clearly against "No Billag

Reporters Without Borders (ROG) Switzerland "firmly" rejects the popular initiative "No Billag", which will be presented to the people and cantons on March 4, according to a statement. The proposal represents "an unprecedented threat to the diversity and independence of the media and thus to Swiss democracy".

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ROG Switzerland is a non-partisan NGO that promotes freedom, diversity and independence of journalism and the media and supports those who are committed to these ideals. The extreme demands of the No Billag Initiative has prompted ROG Switzerland to take a public stand for once, the organisation wrote on Wednesday.

The text of the initiative - although the initiators are now expressing themselves differently - is very clear and leaves little room for interpretation. The removal of any form of public support from 2019 and the small size of the Swiss market would lead to the disappearance or drastic reduction of radio and TV programmes and their internet presences, both for SRG SSR programmes and for the 34 regional private radio and TV stations that currently receive a share of the licence fee, it says. ROG is convinced that this would seriously and permanently jeopardise the diversity of the Swiss media, which is already being impaired by technological changes, new media consumption habits and the flow of advertising money from national providers to large foreign groups. The functioning of semi-direct democracy in Switzerland and the free formation of opinion would also be jeopardised.

Acceptance of the initiative would also mean the abolition of any form of financial equalisation between the regions, ROG fears. The NGO warns that this equalisation currently enables SRG SSR to offer programmes of equal quality throughout Switzerland; its disappearance would have a particularly serious impact on media diversity in minority regions, i.e. in French, Italian and Romansh-speaking Switzerland. (pd/hae)

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