Swiss citizens voted decisively to keep the country’s TV and radio licence fees in today’s referendum, with a majority of 71.6 per cent against a popular initiative to scrap the tax. All 23 cantons rejected the proposal after an unusually hard-fought campaign centred on the high level of the annual fee at CHF 451 per household, and allegations of duplication and waste among the many television and radio channels run by the public-owned Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).
Notwithstanding the heavy defeat of this citizen-led initiative at the ballot box, SBC’s critics will be able to claim a partial victory as the broadcaster has conceded it needs implement reforms: a package of cost cuts and efficiency measures has already been announced.
The level of voting against the initiative was higher than anticipated in both opinion polls covering the referendum. GFS Bern had found ‘No’ to be on 65 per cent in research carried out from 7 to 14 February, while a Tamedia poll on 15 February gave the ‘No’ side 60 per cent.
A second referendum held today was far less controversial. It renewed the right of the Federal Government to levy direct federal taxes and collect Value Added Tax (VAT) for another 15 years from the start of 2021. As expected, this Federal proposal was backed overwhelmingly, with 84 per cent and majorities in all cantons. In decentralised Switzerland, with its focus on direct democracy, getting public approval for the levy of these taxes is a constitutional requirement.
Stimulated by the debate around the TV licence fee, turnout at 54.4 per cent was the best in any Swiss referendum (these are generally held quarterly) since February 2016.
Aside from the two national decisions, 22 other referenda on purely local matters were also held today in 14 Swiss cantons.
1. Abolition of Radio and Television Fees (Proposal 617, Popular Initiative of 11.12.2015)
NO 2,098, 139 (71.6 per cent)
YES 833,630 (28.4 per cent)
Turnout 54.4 per cent
2. New Financial Regime from 2021 (Proposal 616, Federal decree of 16.06.2017)
YES 2,357,915 (84.1 per cent)
NO 445,417 (15.9 per cent)
Turnout 52.0 per cent
Source: Swiss government official website. ‘Vorlaeufige amtliches Endergebnisse’ from 04.03.2018. Full breakdown of results by canton here.
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