Parliament backs state funding for swissinfo

The outlook is a little better for swissinfo after the House decision

Parliament has decided that the government should provide at least half of swissinfo's funding, following a House of Representatives decision.

This content was published on March 6, 2006 - 17:50

Parliamentarians on Monday decided the government should reinstate its subsidy for the multimedia platform, which was in danger of being reduced to an English-only service.

The House followed the Senate in voting in favour of the subsidy, which was phased out completely at the end of last year, as part of wide-ranging public spending cuts.

Without government money, swissinfo would have been totally dependent on the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation for its funding.

The SBC responded to the government's plans last March by saying that it intended to dismantle swissinfo's nine-language web platform, leaving only a reduced English service.

That decision met with fierce opposition from the various quarters including the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad, which represents a key audience of swissinfo.

In November, the Senate had a change of heart and decided to reinstate the government's contribution, in percentage terms at least. Senators in favour of swissinfo's continued existence argued that Switzerland needed to provide information about the country to the world at large via a public service internet platform.

The House has now followed suit during an ongoing debate on a revised radio and television law.


Also accepted by the House on Monday was a motion brought last year by a senator, Filippo Lombardi, which sought to reinstate swissinfo's subsidy, and prevent cuts planned by the SBC. That motion too has already been approved in the Senate.

According to swissinfo spokeswoman Monika Gysin, the House decision means the SBC will have to revise its plans for cuts at swissinfo, but that a number of issues still need to be settled before swissinfo's future is clear.

The SBC and the Federal Communications Office will now have to decide together what services should be provided by swissinfo and how the enterprise should be funded.

The SBC's president, Jean-Bernard Münch, said shortly after the cutbacks were announced that swissinfo would not survive in its current form even if the government provided half of its funding.

However, he did admit at the last congress of the Swiss Abroad in September that he had underestimated the strength of support for the multimedia unit.

Within Switzerland, the plans to dismantle swissinfo were also criticised by, among others, the foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, parliamentarians, cantonal authorities, political parties, trade unions, professional bodies, foreign ambassadors, immigrant communities and cultural circles.

swissinfo was set up in 1999 as the online successor to Swiss Radio International, which ceased broadcasting in 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In 2004 the government provided SFr17 million for swissinfo and reduced it to SFr5 million for 2005 – the last year that it subsidised the service.

The budget cuts led to 26 redundancies in 2004.

The SBC announced plans last year for about 80 more job cuts by the end of 2006.

The SBC wanted to save SFr16 million with the cuts at swissinfo, reducing the service to ten journalists and an English-only website.

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Key facts

swissinfo was launched in 1999 as the internet arm of Swiss Radio International.
It is available in nine languages: English, German, French, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese.
Its task is to inform Swiss abroad and to raise awareness of Switzerland in other countries.
Founded in 1934, it has a staff of 120.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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