71 percent rejection: clear No trend to No Billag initiative

Radio and television license fees are not expected to be abolished. According to the trend calculation by gfs.bern on behalf of SRG, voters rejected the No Billag initiative on Sunday.


"Nothing more can happen, it will be a No," Lukas Golder of gfs.bern said shortly after noon on SRF television. The gfs.bern research institute speaks of a "no" trend when the expected "no" vote is above 55 percent.

The No vote had been expected. In the last gfs survey, 65 percent said they would definitely or rather reject the initiative; the Tamedia survey came to a No vote of 60 percent.

However, the signs had not been so clear from the start. In December, a survey by the market research institute Marketagent.com showed a majority in favor. As a result, nerves were frayed in the referendum campaign.

Hit the spirit of the times

Now SRG can breathe a sigh of relief. The electorate has made it clear that it still wants fee-financed radio and television. The SVP and the trade association, which supported the initiative, suffered a defeat.

However, the initiators - members of the Young Freedom Party and the Young SVP from the libertarian milieu - can claim to have triggered a broad discussion about public service broadcasting. The referendum hit the spirit of the times: Public broadcasters are also under pressure in other countries.

More than a media debate

In addition, the initiators helped the libertarian ideology, which had previously received little attention in Switzerland, to attract a great deal of attention. The concept of "everyone only paying for what they personally use" met with much approval, but also irritated.

Opponents warned of a lack of solidarity, which - if the approach were to catch on - could endanger cohesion in the country. Radio and television broadcasts also benefit those who do not use them, the opponents argued. After all, informed citizens are an important prerequisite for the functioning of a democracy.

SRG must save

The electorate was apparently convinced: the constitutional article on radio and television remains unchanged after Sunday's No vote. The SRG is also not threatened with liquidation. Changes are nevertheless on the horizon.

On the one hand, SRG will only receive CHF 1.2 billion from the fee pot from 2019, 40 million less than today. On the other hand, it is struggling with declining advertising revenues. Overall, those in charge are expecting a drop in revenue of 80 to 100 million francs.

New concession

In 2019, SRG will also receive a new license: The programs of SRF radio and television are to be more strongly differentiated from those of the private broadcasters. In addition, SRG is to enter into more cooperative ventures with private broadcasters. At least half of the reception fees should continue to flow into information. The consultation on the concession is still ongoing.

Furthermore, the Federal Council wants to allow the SRG to target group-specific advertising in the future. However, this form of advertising is to be restricted. In particular, it must not be directed at regional target groups. Publishers nevertheless criticized the plans in the consultation on the revision of the Radio and Television Ordinance.

New media law

Finally, the Federal Council intends to present a draft of the new media law by the summer. Under discussion is direct media funding. For reasons of state and democratic policy, the goal must be to ensure diversity and quality in journalism, Leuthard said in an interview.

The Federal Council is therefore considering using existing funds to provide financial support for online media and the SDA news agency in addition to radio and TV in the future. The Federal Council had already set the direction in a report from 2016. To ensure that the public service also reaches young audiences, the current model must be adapted to the Internet age, it wrote.

To be continued

The discussion about the level of fees is also not yet over. It is clear how much households and companies will have to pay for the public media service from next year: With the change to a general levy, the amount will drop from CHF 451 today to CHF 365 a year. Companies with sales of 500,000 francs or more will pay a graduated fee.

However, various parliamentary motions for a lower amount have already been announced. A new popular initiative is also not ruled out. In the event of a Yes to the No Billag initiative, the fees would have been abolished altogether.

The proponents promoted pay TV and more advertising. In addition, federal funds were to flow. In addition to SRG, private radio stations, regional TV stations and the Swiss film and music scene would also have been affected. (SDA)

More articles on the topic