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Noel Curran defends Swiss licence fee in Le Temps

24 January 2018
Noel Curran defends Swiss licence fee in Le Temps

This "op-ed" by DG Noel Curran, titled "No Billag - a major issue for the Members of the European Broadcasting Union", appeared in Swiss French newspaper Le Temps on Monday 15 January. 

"In March, the Swiss will take to the polls to decide if they want to continue paying the annual licence fee. This is an important moment, not only for Switzerland, but for all EBU Members.

While we might be best-known publically as the producer of the Eurovision Song Contest, the EBU is primarily an organisation that exists to support and campaign for public service media (PSM). Our HQ is here in Switzerland, not only for the good working conditions, but because the country is known for the quality of its audiovisual production.

If the No Billag initiative is successful, Switzerland will become the only European country without a public service broadcaster.

A ‘yes’ vote will mean the end of PSM across Switzerland.  Programming made for, financed and controlled by the public, for the public. Serving everyone from major conurbations to small rural communities and providing the bedrock for Switzerland’s diverse, pluralistic society.

Proponents of the initiative may contend that this does not matter in a world where audiences have a proliferation of media choices already available to them around the clock.

However I would argue that there has never been a time in the history of broadcasting when it was more important to have well-funded and independent PSM. It is precisely because anyone can now broadcast their views and opinions online that trust in media is declining. At times like this, people need broadcasters they can turn to for independent news, reliable information and a national perspective.

Far from being a drain on national economies, European PSM also invests more than 18 billion euros a year in content creation - 2.6 times greater than the global budgets of Netflix and Amazon combined.

Across the board, more than three-quarter of all programmes on PSM channels in the EBU region are locally produced, not only supporting our continent's economy but contributing hugely to national and regional identities. In Switzerland, the licence fee also helps to fund 34 private local and regional TV broadcasters as well as the national public service broadcaster.

Locally-made news, documentaries and dramas explore and celebrate who we are as different nationalities and our place in the wider world. Entertainment and sport draws people together to enjoy great national moments and help celebrate what makes us uniquely us!

Our research has shown that well-funded and strong PSM goes hand-in-hand with a healthy democracy. Across the world, we have seen too many examples of the damage that can be done to democracies when people with vested interests, and with no PSM remit, take control of the media.

TV and radio are where people still turn for trusted news and information and, in a world where fake news spreads like wildfire online, this is more important than ever to help maintain robust democracies.

While Europe has been convulsed in change, while faith in traditional institutions has ruptured, while the unreliability of some of the news we consume has reached alarming levels, public service media remains a strong, unifying and trusted force in society.

This trust has been hard won. It can never be taken for granted by those of us that work in PSM. But the work we do has also to be supported, funded and at times protected.

For all its many faults, we'll miss public service media if it's ever allowed to disappear."




Relevant links and documents


Michelle Roverelli

Director of Member Relations and Communications