Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a proposal that would have cut taxpayer funding to public broadcasters, after a campaign that stirred debate about the media's role in fostering national unity.
The "No Billag" initiative -- a reference to the Billag firm that collects the media licensing fee -- divided Switzerland on political and generational lines.
But 71 percent voted "no" to the proposals, according to official results published by the Swiss news agency ATS.
Rejection of the initiative was "a strong sign for the public service and for private regional radio and television," said the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) director Gilles Marchand.He said note had been taken of criticism of SBC and announced an efficiency drive and 100 million franc ($106 million) investment from next year.
No Billag's backers, led by the youth wing of the libertarian Free Democratic Party (PLR), sought to portray the SBC as an unfairly dominant and outdated relic.
Switzerland's largest party, the nationalist and anti-migrant Swiss Peoples Party (SVP/UDC), had also thrown its support behind the initiative. SBC, which received about 1.2 billion Swiss francs from the licence fee last year -- or three quarters of its budget -- delivers news in the country's four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch.
Many credit it for guaranteeing that all Swiss residents receive information of crucial public interest in all four languages, along with a range of opinion and analysis.
Provisions on public broadcasting fees for primary residences and in the commercial and non-private sector are constitutional
In Germany, public broadcasting is funded principally by the broadcasting contribution, which is payable in particular by all adults occupying a dwelling within the country. The broadcasting contribution replaced, from 1 January 2013, the former broadcasting fee payable on the basis of possession of a broadcast receiving device. As regards recovery of the broadcasting contribution, public broadcasters have powers, as exceptions to the general law, which enable them themselves to enforce unpaid debts.
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Definition of tax
1a : a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes
b : a sum levied on members of an organization to defray expenses
2 : a heavy demand
How is being forced to pay something not be considered a tax?
(1) Taxes shall mean payments of money, other than payments made in consideration of the performance of a particular activity, which are collected by a public body for the purpose of raising revenue and imposed by the body on all persons to whom the characteristics on which the law bases liability for payment apply; the raising of revenue may be a secondary objective.