Ticino remains a shaky candidate in the No Billag vote

Italian-speaking Switzerland benefits the most from radio and television licence fees. Nevertheless, according to the GFS poll published on Wednesday, an acceptance of the No Billag initiative in Ticino seems possible.

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In Italian-speaking Switzerland, sympathy for the proposal is currently building up, according to the study by the GFS-Bern research institute. It is conceivable that a protest vote will be held there thanks to the "yes" slogans of the Lega and SVP.

In 2015, the new law on radio and television fees had already failed in Ticino. This was despite the fact that Italian-language radio and television (RSI) - which broadcasts not only to Ticino but also to the southern valleys of Graubünden - is the second-largest employer after the cantonal administration.

According to SRG statistics, RSI employs 1155 people. Of the CHF 239.2 million annual budget, only a small part comes from advertising revenue. A value creation study published in 2017 by the BAK Basel economic research institute showed that RSI, on the other hand, generates CHF 213 million in added value annually, as it also feeds many suppliers.

20 percent from fee income

With a population of around 350,000, Italian-speaking Switzerland accounts for only 4.5 per cent of the total Swiss population, but RSI receives over 20 per cent from fee income. It thus operates two TV stations and three radio stations in Italian. It is also a partner of numerous cultural events, such as the Locarno Film Festival. During the referendum campaign, the "No No Billag" committee therefore provided a number of rational reasons why the initiative should be rejected.

"If the initiative is accepted, there will be no more RSI," opponents said, calculating that this would threaten the existence not only of the broadcaster and its staff, but also of cultural organisations.

Protest vote from the gut possible

But as with many votes, in Ticino this time too reason weighs less heavily than a vague gut feeling served up by the Lega dei Ticinesi. Since its inception, when it still had its late president Giuliano Bignasca, it has railed against the fee system as an additional burden imposed on the poor southern canton by the German-speaking Swiss.

This argument is now also being used by the proponents of the initiative. The fee is the most expensive in Europe, and this for a "state radio and -", which does not work in the interest of the population, but for immigrants, criticized National Councillor Lorenzo Quadri at his recent television appearance.

In doing so, he is preaching to a large part of the Ticino population. The poverty rate in Ticino is rising, the number of people dependent on social welfare increased by around 2.5 percent in 2017, and the feeling of constant economic pressure makes any further fee a spectre.

But even the Lega and the SVP are not unanimous. Marco Borradori, the president of Lugano's Lega, told SDA that if the initiative were to be adopted, not only would RSI's jobs be lost in Comano, a neighbouring municipality of Lugano, but also those of its suppliers.

Population is close to private broadcasters

For all the reasons of reason, relatively little attention is paid to popular feeling. In southern Switzerland, this is close to the young and very active private stations. The most recent example of this was Radio3i, where two presenters managed to break the world record for continuous presentation.

It seemed as if the whole canton was cheering along. More than a thousand people gathered in front of the radio building and held out until the record - over eighty hours of non-stop moderation - was broken. Afterwards there were tearful hugs and a long celebration. Compared to such a hands-on station, RSI appears more aloof, bureaucratic and out of touch, even when it organizes concerts with stars. (Barbara Hofmann/SDA)

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