Federal Council wants to redefine areas for private radio stations

In the future, there will be more coverage areas for local radio and TV stations - twenty for radio stations instead of the current twelve. In each area, there will be a provider with a public service mandate who will receive money from the radio and TV levy in return.

The Federal Council opened the consultation process on Wednesday. There will now be twenty coverage areas for commercial local radio stations (previously twelve), ten for non-profit local radio stations (previously nine) and 13 for regional TV stations (unchanged).

The adjustment is being made in view of the upcoming relicensing from 2025 and in response to digital developments, according to a statement from the Federal Office of Communications Bakom. It also takes historical developments into account.

The areas in the mountain and peripheral regions remain the same. However, there will be changes in urban agglomerations, on the Swiss Plateau, and in central and eastern Switzerland. In each of the areas, there will be a provider with a public service mandate that receives funds from the radio and television levy. In this way, the public is to be offered regional information across the board, analogous to regional television.

The decisive factor for the new arrangement had been the consideration of describing political or geographical areas in which a journalistic supply appeared to be "desirable in terms of content for social, cultural and economic reasons".

Tender early 2023

In the future, the Federal Council wants to do away with licenses that prescribe a performance mandate for the broadcasters, but in return do not include any funding from license fees. It will still be possible for local broadcasters to operate without a performance mandate and without funds from the levy - they only have to report their programs to Bakom.

According to Bakom, 211 radio stations and 165 television stations are currently registered. These do not have a public service mandate and consequently do not receive any public funding. Where and how they broadcast their programs is up to them.

The coverage areas for commercial local radio stations are now to be defined as follows: two in the Bern region, one in Solothurn-Olten, one in Aargau, two in Basel, three in central Switzerland, five in the greater Zurich area, two in eastern Switzerland and four in the Lake Geneva region.

The currently valid coverage areas for radios had been defined in 2007 - under the technical conditions of FM broadcasting. "Under digital conditions, these technical restrictions largely no longer apply," writes Bakom. Therefore, the areas could now be described more simply.

The consultation period runs until December 9, 2021. At the beginning of 2023, the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (Uvek) plans to put the licenses out to public tender. They will come into force at the beginning of January 2025 and will be valid for ten years. (SDA)

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