Radio and television licence fee

All private households and organisations resident in Switzerland are required by law to pay a licence fee to receive radio and television. Since 1 January 2019 radio and television licence fees have been collected by Serafe AG.

Every private household and every company domiciled in Switzerland is subject to the licence fee. Whether radio and television programmes are received via satellite, an antenna or the Internet is immaterial, and so are the types of broadcast consumed. Households with no reception devices can, however, apply for exemption from the licence fee for the next five years (opt-out).

Households including persons receiving supplementary AHV or IV benefits can apply for exemption from the licence fee. Retroactive exemption is also possible. Foreign diplomatic personnel and persons who are deaf and blind and live alone are also exempt from the licence fee.

Digitalization has totally changed the way we use media. All content can now be accessed anywhere and at any time, regardless of channels and vectors. Everyone in Switzerland thus consumes productions from SRG or other licensed radio and TV providers in one form or another, whether it is a Nouvo video on Facebook, the evening news on television, the music charts on Radio Bern 1 or "Echo der Zeit" as a podcast.

What matters is content, not the wide variety of distribution vectors. SRG and the private licensed radio and TV providers depend on licence fee income to be able to produce the high-quality, relevant content that could not otherwise be financed through the small Swiss media market.

Since 1 January 2019 radio and television licence fees have been collected by Serafe AG. Serafe AG, a subsidiary of Secon AG with its head office in Fehraltorf, will collect radio and television licence fees on behalf of the federal government from 2019.

As of 1 January 2019 a private household in Switzerland pays 365 francs a year for radio and television. Collective households such as retirement and care homes, residential homes, penal institutions, boarding schools and centres for asylum seekers pay 730 francs. Persons living in a collective household therefore pay no individual licence fees.

Companies based in Switzerland are subject to a graduated system of charges. Companies with annual revenues less than 500,000 francs – three quarters of all companies in Switzerland – pay no licence fee. Companies with annual revenues between 500,000 and one million francs pay 365 francs per year, the same as private households.

88 percent of it goes to SRG. 6 percent goes to 35 private broadcasters: 13 regional television stations, 13 commercial local radio stations and 9 non-commercial complementary radio stations. These broadcasters fulfil the performance mandates set out in their licences. Another 6 percent goes towards the funding of a range of activities such as promoting new technologies, media research and fee collection by Serafe.

On the instructions of the federal government SRG provides the Swiss population with a wide range of radio, TV and online services in four languages. SRG divides its resources among all four of Switzerland's language regions, thus reinforcing national cohesion.

About 78 percent of SRG's financing comes from public funds. The bulk of overall spending (87 percent) goes into SRG's own productions such as "Echo der Zeit" (SRF), "Il Quotidiano" (RSI), "Mise au Point" (RTS) and "Telesguard" (RTR). In 2019 SRG spent 41 percent of its overall expenditure on news, 21 percent on entertainment and film, 19 percent on cultural, social and educational programmes, 12 percent on sport and 7 percent on music and youth.

That's how SRG works

SRG is an association that is open to everyone. This association operates the public, independent media house SRG SSR which produces and broadcasts audiovisual content in four language regions and has 6,000 employees.

SRG is an association that is open to everyone. This association operates the public, independent media house SRG SSR which produces and broadcasts audiovisual content in four language regions and has 6600 employees (parent company).

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The SRG association prepares public-service audiovisual offerings in accordance with the Federal Radio and Television Act (RTVG) and the Charter issued by the Federal Council. It consists of four regional subsidiaries: SRG.D, RTSR, Corsi, SRG.R. SRG.D and RTSR are in turn made up of member companies, e.g. Aargau/Solothurn, Ostschweiz, Jura, etc. Some of these are even subdivided into sections.

To fulfil its purpose, the association operates a company consisting of five Enterprise Units: RSI, RTR, RTS, SRF, SWI (international service) and subsidiary companies (technology and production center switzerland ag, SWISS TXT AG and Telvetia S.A.).

The association tasks the professional SRG company with fulfilling the association's purpose (see "Purpose of SRG association"), namely the preparation of audiovisual offerings. With its four regional subsidiaries, the association anchors SRG firmly in society, stimulates public debate about modern public service and, with its committees and authority, influences the orientation and quality of radio and television schedules as well as other media offerings.

The authority of the Delegates' Meeting is laid down in SRG's statutes. In addition to the statutory business that is incumbent upon a general meeting under company law, the Delegates' Meeting approves the appointment of the Director General in response to a proposal from the Board of Directors, and also approves the Board of Directors' proposals on media policy-related changes to the Charter and SRG's annual report on quality and public service. The delegates also elect three of the nine members of SRG's Board of Directors. The Delegates' Meeting issues the compensation regulations for itself and the Board of Directors, and it may decide on applications to the Federal Council concerning the level of the licence fee. It determines how much money the regional subsidiaries are allocated each year. It may also refer proposals for audits of the public service remit and of service quality to the Board of Directors. These are questions on quality and public service that the Board of Directors has to answer within six months. Furthermore, the Delegates' Meeting acknowledges the Organizational Regulations and reports on strategy and strategy implementation. German-speaking Switzerland has 18 delegates, French-speaking Switzerland has nine, Italian-speaking Switzerland has six and Romansh-speaking Switzerland has three. Added to these are five Board Directors who act as delegates although they have not yet been Regional Presidents. The Delegates' Meeting therefore consists of a total of 41 people. It convenes at least twice a year.

The Board of Directors has two roles: it is the association's management board and it carries out the overall management for the company in accordance with the regulations of company law and the provisions of the RTVG and the Charter. It has a responsibility to the Federal Council to meet the output and service targets set down in law and in the Charter (see also section on "Mandate and legal position"). The Board of Directors oversees business activity and makes decisions concerning strategy, corporate development and key business issues. The Board of Directors delegates the management of SRG and responsibility for programme services to the Director General. The Organizational Regulations lay down who has what authority. The SRG Board of Directors has nine members: the four Regional Presidents of SRG.D, RTSR, CORSI and SRG.R, two members nominated by the Federal Council and three elected by the Delegates' Meeting. The President is elected by the Delegates' Meeting.

The SRG association consists of four regional companies: SRG.D, RTSR, Corsi and SRG.R. Each regional company has the following three committees: a Regional Council, a Regional Board and a Public Council. The Regional Councils bring the social and cultural concerns of their regions to the table, acknowledge reports from the Enterprise Units on quality, public service and programme service strategies, petition the Regional Boards to review these service concepts, appoint delegates and undertake other tasks.

The Regional Boards head up the regional companies. Under the SRG statutes, they also have a say when service-related matters are discussed by the SRG Board of Directors. They define the service strategies for the Enterprise Unit in question and distribute money among TV channels, radio chains and multimedia, although only within the confines laid down by the Board of Directors. It is also the job of the relevant Regional Board to submit proposals to the Board of Directors concerning the election of Enterprise Unit Directors (RSI, RTR, RTS and SRF) and members of their Executive Boards. The Presidents of the regional companies are ex-officio members of the Delegates' Meeting and the SRG Board of Directors.

Each regional company also has a Public Council that ensures close contact between programme-makers and radio and television audiences, and supports programming work by making observations, proposals and suggestions. In each language region, the Public Councils have set up an Ombudsman's Office. If viewers consider a TV programme to be inappropriate or unlawful, for example, they can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has no power to issue instructions, but will attempt to mediate between the programme makers and dissatisfied viewers. The same applies to radio programmes and online articles. A procedure exists for appealing against the Ombudsman's decision (in other words, under certain circumstances laid down in the RTVG, complaints about programmes can be heard by the Independent Complaints Authority UBI, the Federal Supreme Court or the European Court of Human Rights).

The Director General of SRG is responsible for the entire Enterprise. His/her authority and how this interfaces with that of the Board of Directors is described in the Organizational Regulations. He/she heads up the members of the Executive Board, which comprises the Directors of RSI, RTR, RTS and SRF, the Director of Operations and the Director of Finance.

The SRG Executive Board is the most senior operational management body of the entire Group. It draws up the strategy for the Enterprise and is responsible for implementing it. However, it also concerns itself with a wide variety of other matters, from programming to personnel, from finance to property, and from technology to legal matters. The Executive Board meets around ten times a year in order to deal with this wide range of issues. The SRG General Secretary is always in attendance, although he/she is not entitled to vote.

If the Executive Board is unable to reach agreement on a matter, the ultimate decision rests with the Director General.

SRG is an association. For a Swiss association to have a legal capacity, the inaugural meeting must issue written statutes. The legal basis for all associations is the law relating to associations as established in the Swiss Code of Civil Law. This is supplemented by specific association statutes that summarize how the association is defined, organized and funded. These statutes are issued by the Delegates' Meeting and approved by the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications.

However, since SRG is not merely an association but an association organized in accordance with the principles of company law, it not only has statutes but also Organizational Regulations. These Organizational Regulations are based on the statutes and cover e.g. the authority of the Board of Directors and the Executive Board, make more precise statements concerning the tasks of individual committees, and define certain organizational premises such as the fact that decisions made by committees must be minuted in writing. The Organizational Regulations are issued by the Board of Directors.

The Rules of Procedure are an additional set of regulations. The Organizational Regulations stipulate that the Director General has to issue Rules of Procedure. They include how SRG is organized internally, e.g. what authority the Director General has over other members of the Executive Board, and how Board meetings are to be organized.

Services for people with sensory disabilities

All members of society have the right to enjoy unhindered access to SRG’s services. The wide range of subtitled, audio-described and signed programmes is constantly being expanded – both in terms of content and on a technical level.

SRG has concluded an agreement with seven associations for people with sensory disabilities, thus reaffirming its commitment to support and integrate people with visual and hearing impairments. In specific terms this means that SRG offers content with subtitles, audiodescription and sign language.

SRG will massively expand its offer until 2022:

  • in television, the share of subtitled programmes will be increased to 80 percent
  • the majority of online content will be subtitled
  • programmes in sign language will be increased to 1000 hours and those with audiodescription for the blind to 900 hours.

Last year, 65 percent of SRG TV programmes were broadcast with subtitles for hearing impaired, while during primetime (18:00–22:30) all programmes of the first channels were entirely subtitled in every language region – 37,810 hours in total. Furthermore, on the weekends all live programmes are subtitled from noon.

And some of the programmes available online also have subtitles. For example, it is now possible to activate subtitles on the Play-Apps from SRF, RTS or RSI (rsi.ch/play).

SRF, RTS and RSI have been broadcasting their daily news programmes in sign language since January 2008. SRF also offers «Meteo», «Kassensturz» and «Puls» in sign language and RTS «A bon entendeur». In 2019, SRG broadcast 647 hours in sign language:

  • 238 hours for SRF
  • 234 hours for RTS
  • and 175 hours for RSI (incl. HbbTV).

Thanks to audiodescription which is an ongoing and very precise acoustic description. In 2019, SRG broadcast 882 hours of audiodescription (incl. replays), such as quiz shows, documentaries, movies and series. The RTS series "A l'école hôtellière" and the docu-fiction "100 Jahre Circus Knie" were audiodescribed in every language region. Altogether, SRF offered 503 hours of audiodescription, RTS 211 hours and RSI 168 hours.