Revision of the Radio and Television Act: Federal Council opens consultation procedure
Bern, 09.05.2012 - The Radio and Television Act (RTVA) seeks an appropriate and practical fee system to secure the public service in Switzerland. With some exceptions - all households and companies are to pay a new universal radio and television fee. In addition, increased flexibility and a simpler licensing procedure are planned for private radio and television stations. The Federal Council has passed draft legislation and the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) has commissioned a consultation procedure. The consultation procedure will run from 10 May 2012 until 29 August 2012.
The partial revision of the Radio and Television Act (RTVA) focuses on the replacement of the current reception fee by a universal radio and television fee. It is to be paid by every household and business and will no longer be linked to the existence of a reception device. The reason for the change is that today, devices such as smart phones, computers and tablets allow radio and television reception. What constitutes a reception device is no longer clear. The administrative costs are high and it requires checks in households and businesses. In addition, the majority currently cover the missing revenue from fee dodgers – persons consuming radio and television illegally without paying fees. The new universal fee solves these problems.
Recipients of supplementary benefits will be exempt from the universal radio and television fee. A new rule is that businesses with an annual turnover of less than CHF 500,000 do not have to pay the universal fee. This is the case with approximately 70% of all businesses. The threshold of CHF 500,000 approximately corresponds to the limit for the mandatory accounting according to the new accounting legislation.
With this draft, the Federal Council is devising a new fee system on behalf of the Federal Assembly. The goal is to finance radio and television programme services in all areas of Switzerland (public service).
Fee splitting for private stations
Currently, the proportion of fees reserved for private radio and television stations cannot be paid in full. A flexible solution in the RTVA will avoid this situation. A variable, rather than a fixed, percentage of reception fees for private radio and television stations is now planned. A legal ruling will be established in relation to the fund of around CHF 69 million (as of end of 2011) that has accumulated since 2007 and a partial rebate proposed for fee-payers.
The fact that funds cannot be paid in full is because licensing procedures are sometimes delayed. This means that the entry into force of performance mandates, which entitle compensation, are delayed. Furthermore, this compensation from the fees cannot exceed a certain percentage of a station's budget. If commercial revenue is not sufficiently high, this can lead to the fee not being paid in full.
In future, licensed regional television stations are to subtitle their main information programmes. This will also enable persons with hearing impairments to use these programme services. This service will be financed by the former reception fees and the new universal radio and television fee. Regional television stations will also be able to freely transmit their programme services. Until now, they have only been permitted to transmit their programme services in their region.
Local and regional radio and television licences may only be granted if the diversity of opinion and offerings is not jeopardised. In order to simplify the issuing of licences, prior checking shall no longer be required. However, the issue of media concentration continues to play an important role: if several comparable applications are made, the station that best enhances media diversity shall receive the licence. Furthermore, it shall continue to be the case that a media company may only hold two radio and two television licences. Finally, DETEC may also check whether the diversity of opinion and offerings is being jeopardised after transmission begins and, if necessary, take suitable measures.
Address for enquiries
Martin Dumermuth, Director General Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), Tel. 032 327 55 50 (Media Service)
The Federal Council
Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications
Federal Office of Communications