SRG – independent, nationwide and serving society
SRG is often described as "state radio" or "state television". This is not the case.
Based on the constitution, legislation and its Charter, SRG fulfils a social mandate, in return for which it receives money from the income generated from radio and television licence fees, which are collected by Billag on behalf of the Confederation. The Federal Radio and Television Act (RTVG) and, in rather more detail, the relevant ordinance and the Charter lay down the tasks that SRG must fulfil as part of its mandate:
- Offerings relating to particular aspects of services (unrestricted shaping of opinion, cohesion between different parts of the country, Swiss culture, education, integration and entertainment)
- A similar range of offerings in the three major language regions, a tailored range of services for Romansh-speaking Switzerland, and an online service for Swiss citizens living abroad
- Broadcasting via various different methods (e.g. VHF, DAB+ and DVB-T)
- A website conforming to a specifically defined framework (e.g. restrictions on articles not related to radio or TV programmes)
- An organizational structure in line with the specified framework (e.g. composition of the Board of Directors)
- Collaboration with certain industries (e.g. film, music and archiving)
In its services, SRG also has to meet particular qualitative and ethical requirements to differentiate itself from commercial suppliers.
SRG's activities, organization and funding are essentially fixed by the Swiss Confederation and overseen by the Federal Office of Communications (Ofcom). SRG therefore cannot act "freely". However, within the framework formed by legislation and its Charter, it is independent. This precept of the independence of radio and television is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. No-one, not even politicians or government officials, is permitted to interfere in the editorial activities of the media, nor consequently those of SRG either.
It is wrong to say:
SRG and its RSI, RTR, RTS, SRF and SWI Swissinfo Enterprise Units are "state radio", "state television" or a "state company".
It is right to say:
SRG is a private association operated in accordance with company law (see also "Organization and structure") with a particular social mandate (charter), which runs a media company in order to fulfil this mandate.
Did you know?
The relationship between the Swiss Confederation and SRG can be very neatly illustrated using the Confederation's "four-circles" model. The Federal Administration controls its service providers in a variety of different ways. Some are managed very closely and centrally, while others are set certain objectives and are otherwise free to structure their activities as they wish. SRG does not form part of this four-circles model. It lies completely outside it.
- Circle 1: Ministries
Primarily administrative units with a coordinating and controlling function, e.g. Federal Office of Justice.
- Circle 2: Offices managed on a service mandate
Service providers within the Swiss federal administration, e.g. Federal Office of Communications.
- Circle 3: Companies and institutions under public law
Service providers outside the Swiss federal administration but which are wholly owned by the Swiss Confederation, e.g. ETH.
- Circle 4: Public-private partnerships and private companies
Service providers outside the Swiss federal administration in which the Swiss Confederation holds a stake, but which are not wholly owned by the Swiss Confederation, e.g. Swiss Post, Swisscom.
- SRG: No element of the federal 4-circle model, as even farther removed from the Swiss Confederation.
Association managed under Swiss company law with a societal mandate.
Did you know?
The concept of public service is central to SRG. The idea of public service broadcasting arose in Europe between the two World Wars – initially in Britain. Nationwide coverage had very rapidly highlighted the fact that radio played a key role in influencing public opinion. Radio became an instrument of power. But to whom did this radio belong? The government? The business sector? In Britain, the decision was made that there should be a broadcasting corporation that was independent of any political or economic interests. A broadcasting corporation whose sole aim was to serve society. Public sector broadcasting was born in the form of the BBC.
As the term "public service" implies, we are talking about a service to the public or, more specifically, "public service broadcasting". There are three central aspects to this:
- We reach everyone.
The entire population – even those in outlying regions – has access to the high-quality range of SRG services. The service provided in each of the three major language regions is therefore similarly extensive. And Romansh-speaking Switzerland also has its own smaller range of radio, television and Internet services.
- We reflect a wide variety of opinions.
We always show more than one aspect of an issue and we are impartial. People can therefore always form their own opinions and views. This is very important, particularly in a democracy where the population fundamentally has a say in matters.
- We are independent.
We conduct our activities independently of any political or economic interests. We do not seek to make a profit. We simply serve society.