Swiss sports bodies warn of effects of scrapping TV licence fee
Sports authorities in Switzerland have pleaded with the public not to abolish the television licence fee when a vote is held next month, stressing the impact it would have on events in the country and their free-to-air exposure.
Swiss Olympic, the national Olympic committee, and SwissTopSport, the body of leading sports events, have attempted to flag up what they regard as drastic consequences if the initiative to end licence fee payments taken by Billag, a subsidiary of Swiss telecoms giant Swisscom, receives the necessary backing at a vote on 4 March.
SRG SSR, the Swiss public-service broadcaster, generates around 75 per cent of its funding from the licence fee, and is the host broadcaster of many top sports events across the country.
Jürg Stahl, the Swiss Olympic president and a member of the Swiss People's Party, warned: “Accepting the ‘No Billag’ initiative would signify the death of [SRG] SSR as we know it today. What’s more, it would threaten the very existence of 34 private radio and television channels.
“Only very few countries achieve so many good results in so many sports as Switzerland does. This is largely due to SSR, which has been offering comprehensive reports on more than a hundred sports and encouraging Switzerland to follow the sports news.”
Stahl added that, in the event of the No Billag campaign proving successful, private broadcasters would continue to focus on sports that already receive a lot of exposure, stripping other sports of an extremely important platform.
Ruedi Kunz, president of SwissTopSport, remarked: “Given that the production of sports events is often very complex and expensive, we must assume that the acceptance of the ‘No Billag’ initiative would sound the death knell for SSR and with it the production and broadcast of our events.
“Accepting the initiative would therefore mean the end of many sizable Swiss sports events.”
SwissTopSport brings together 21 top sports events in Switzerland, including tennis' Swiss Indoors, an ATP World Tour 500 event in Basel, athletics’ Weltklasse in Zurich and Athletissima in Lausanne, cycling’s Tour de Suisse, show jumping’s CHI Geneva and the FIS World Cup skiing stage in Adelboden.
Organisers of gymnastics’ Swiss Cup Zurich, another event housed by SwissTopSport, said that the event could not take place if its agreement with SRG SSR fell apart as a consequence of the licence fee being scrapped.
They warned that sponsors would withdraw their backing without the “considerable reach of live broadcasts and in-depth reporting.”