On 14 June, Swiss citizens voted by referendum on the partial review of the Federal Radio and TV Act (RVTA), which was approved by a very narrow margin (Yes: 50.1%, No: 49.9 %).
The main objective of the RVTA review is to replace today’s device-dependent reception fee with a universal fee more adapted to technical developments and the area of convergence. Today, reception devices as smartphones, tablets and computers are present in nearly every Swiss household and enterprise. As the fee will be supported by a broader base, it will be possible to reduce the fee per household from CHF 462 to CHF400 per year. For companies, the fee is graduated according to turnover, and companies with a low turnover will not have to pay. The new model is also more cost-effective as the task of the collection agency shall be greatly reduced.
The review of the RTVA will also strengthen regional and local radio and TV stations with public service mandates owing to changes in the distribution of the fee. These broadcasters will receive up to 6% of the fee instead of 4% previously. These additional subsidies worth CHF 27 million per year will be used mainly for the training and education of their employees, as well as for the promotion of digitisation. The amount shall also be spent on subtitling of their main news broadcasts.
In addition, the review of the RTVA also decided to remove the Independent Complaints Authority for Radio and Television’s right to impose administrative sanctions; and on allowing the ICA to monitor other journalistic services of the public broadcaster SRG SSR, services which include in particular online offers and teletext.
The referendum took place because the Swiss Association of small and medium enterprises (“schweizerischer Gewerbeverband”) did not agree with the new fee model and collected enough signatures for the launching of a public referendum.
While some provisions of the revised RTVA - such as the additional support to regional and local broadcasters - shall enter into force by mid-2016, the change to the new fee model shall take place at the earliest mid-2018 as preparatory regulatory work is needed and a new collecting body will need to be publicly tendered.