From the beginning of next year, an amended system to levy a licence fee for the use of radio and television in Switzerland will come into force. It involves a different method and different collection agencies.
For most private households it means good news as the bill for the mandatory fee will be lower than before.
How much does the new licence fee cost?
The annual fee will be CHF365 ($366) for each private household in Switzerland, down from CHF451. Businesses will pay between CHF365 and CH35,590 depending on their annual turnover. Companies with a turnover below CHF500,000 are exempt. It no longer depends on whether radio or television sets are installed.
Who is also exempt from the fee?
Households with people who receive supplementary benefits to top up old-age pension or disability insurance payments. Or people who live in nursing and old people’s homes, hostels, boarding schools and penal institutions. Foreign diplomats are also exempt as well as households in Switzerland with no possibility of receiving radio and television programmes.
What about holiday homes or branch offices?
Neither of them is liable to pay an annual fee as households and businesses are liable for the fee only once.
What brought about the change in the Swiss radio and television licensing system?
Parliament in 2014 approved the legal reform. Promoters, inducing the government, argued new online technologies, including smartphones and tablets, made it necessary to amend the fee system.
The communications ministry mandated the company Serafeexternal link to collect the fee from January 2019, succeeding the Billag company, which ceases to exist. The Federal Tax Administration will carry out the task in the case of licence fees for business companies.
The revenue is expected to reach CHF1.37 billion annually and most of it is to go the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Minor shares are destined for private radio and television companies and the Swiss news agency, Keystone-SDA.
What role did politicians and voters play?
Opponents to a legal reform, led by the Associations of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, challenged the parliamentary decision to a nationwide vote. In June 2015, Swiss citizens narrowly approved the reform at the ballot box.
A subsequent public ballot to do away with the licence fee altogether failed in March 2018. The proposal won just 28.4% of the vote. If approved, it would have deprived the SBC with its 24 radio and television channels in four national languages as well as online sites such as swissinfo.ch of most of their funding.