SRG is once again facing difficult times.
The SRG has often been under fire in the past. Too left-leaning, too close to the state, not critical enough. Attacks against the largest Swiss media company with its four niche channels SRF, RTS, RSI and RTR have intensified over the years, especially from the right. In 2018, the No-Billag initiative clearly failed at the ballot box, but now a new initiative is already in the starting blocks.
“200 francs are enough” – under this slogan, a right-wing committee presented a new popular initiative to curtail the SRG in March 2022. The aim of the initiative is to limit radio and television fees from CHF 335 per household and year to a maximum of CHF 200. Companies and commercial establishments are to be completely exempt from the SRG tax.
SRG boss Marchand warns of budget cuts
It won’t be voted on for a few years, but SRG Director General Giles Marchand (60) is already trying to dispel any doubts about SRG’s allegedly so important position. If yes, the SRG budget would be halved, namely to CHF 700 to 750 million, Marchand said in an interview with the French-speaking Swiss newspaper “Le Temps” on Saturday (Blick reported). “There would also be very significant job losses,” Marchand said. It remains to be seen whether the director general’s admonishing words will have an impact on the Swiss population.
In a Blick survey, around 80% of readers are against Marchand – and are in favor of a cap of 200 francs.
What is striking is that it is not only the Swiss public broadcasting that is repeatedly viewed critically, the once so proud TV and radio stations also seem to be increasingly struggling beyond the national borders.
Germany: Refusal to pay
Germany has four public broadcasters: ARD (with its nine state broadcasters), ZDF, Deutschlandfunk and the international broadcaster DW. Its annual budget is around 8.42 billion euros. As in Switzerland, this is financed by the radio license fee of currently 18.36 euros per month, which every German household has to pay, regardless of whether the stations are actually watched.
However, this model is no longer undisputed. As in this country, most attacks in Germany come from the middle-right to right-wing spectrum. The former CDU member of the Bundestag and GDR civil rights activist Arnold Vaatz (67) announced in an interview with the Ex-Bild editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt (42) that he would no longer pay broadcasting fees in the future. “I stopped making payments a long time ago,” says Vaatz.
He cites the statements made by ZDF satirist Sarah Bosetti (38) as the reason. In her format “Bosetti wants to talk”, at the height of the Corona situation, she said in the direction of the opponents of the measures: “Actually, those who want to divide society are sitting pretty far to the right and pretty far down. And such an appendix is not essential for the survival of the entire complex in the strict sense. If it catches fire, it screams loudly and is annoying.”
Reichelt himself has also announced that he will no longer pay the fee – for “reasons of conscience”. Reichelt lists three points: “First, the broadcasting fee finances anti-Semitism. Second, it finances the glorification of violence against exponents of the state. And thirdly, it finances a system that does not allow sufficient internal freedom of expression.” Reichelt explains on YouTube that he will refuse to pay “no matter what I’m threatened with”.
However, public service broadcasting in its current form also seems to be losing support among the rest of the population.
A survey by the market and opinion research institute “Ipsos” from November 2022 now shows that apparently only a minority of Germans are in favor of the public broadcasting system continuing in its current form. Almost 30 percent are in favor of ARD and ZDF providing separate television and online programs as before. On the other hand, 35 percent would welcome a merger of the two stations. Another 35 percent are in favor of a complete abolition of public broadcasting in Germany.
France: taxes instead of license fee
France also has public broadcasting with the television stations of «France télévisions» and the radio programs of «Radio France». But this, too, faces uncertain times. Until last summer, these broadcasters financed themselves with an annual media tax of 138 euros, which every household had to pay. This brought four billion euros into the coffers of public broadcasters every year.
Last June, President Macron (44) then announced that the license fee would be abolished. Although the financing of public service broadcasting should also be ensured in the future, this could in future be financed via a budget in the state budget. In this way, citizens would continue to co-finance broadcasting with their taxes, even if only indirectly.
Critics of public service broadcasting and the broadcasting levy saw themselves as confirmed. Macron’s decision has also caused a lot of criticism. Supporters of the broadcasting levy point to the danger that public service broadcasting will become dependent on politics as a result. Politicians could then put financial pressure on public service broadcasting and thus influence it.
Great Britain: Search for a new financing model
Great Britain is credited with being the creator of public service broadcasting. Founded in 1922, the BBC developed into one of the most important sources of information for the world public during the Second World War. The BBC’s offer is still consumed by millions of people worldwide today. But over the years, competition in the UK media market has also increased, resulting in the BBC losing its once undisputed position.
The BBC has long been a thorn in the side of conservative and right-wing circles. Many consider it too left-leaning. In a 2019 interview with the BBC, Brexit advocate and commentator Nigel Farage (58) described it as an “enemy”. Some of the British population was also bothered by the reporting on the Brexit vote, which they believed was primarily in favor of the Brexit opponents.
British public broadcasters pay £159 a year. But he fears for his future. At the beginning of 2022, Nadine Dorries (65), then Minister for Culture in Boris Johnson’s (58) cabinet, announced that she would abolish the broadcasting fee for the BBC from 2027 and look for new financing models for the BBC. After all: According to a report in the Financial Times, the then Finance Minister and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (42) was against this plan at the time. However, the discussions about the future of the BBC should not decrease. (ced)