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Switzerland TV licence: Voters set to reject abolition

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EPA

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Voters took to the polls on Sunday to decide on the “No Billag” initiative and financial regulation

Voters in Switzerland look set to decisively reject a proposal to abolish the national broadcasting licence fee.

The country was voting in a referendum on Sunday on whether to axe the mandatory yearly fee of 451 Swiss francs ($480; £348) per household.

Early results show that about 70% have voted to reject the move.

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) currently offers programming in four different national languages – German, French, Italian, and Romantsch.

Its seven television channels and 17 radio stations are mostly funded by the compulsory licence, with roughly a quarter coming from advertising.

Supporters of keeping the fee maintain it is essential to a small country like Switzerland, with population of just 8.4 million, to have a national broadcaster which reflects its cultural and linguistic diversity.

But anti-licence fee campaigners said citizens were being forced to pay for programmes they don’t watch.

  • Swiss voters ponder TV licence axe

The No Billag campaign, named after the organisation that collects the fee, accuses the organisation of becoming bloated, inefficient and too dominant of the nation’s media.

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“Less variety, less Switzerland” and “Stop the licence fee!” – posters used in the referendum campaign

If the proposal does pass, Switzerland will be the first European country to abolish a compulsory fee for its public service broadcaster.

Full results of the referendum are expected on Sunday afternoon.

On Wednesday, the government said that if voters decided to keep the fee, most households would see a “notable reduction” in their annual contribution from 2019 onwards.

SBC will have its revenue capped at 1.2bn Swiss francs – meaning its current budget will have to be cut by 40m francs.

Voters on Sunday were also deciding on whether to extend the federal government’s right to levy taxes from 2021 to 2035 – a right that has to be periodically approved in Switzerland.

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