SUISSE news Fall 2018
Government | Switzerland-Canada Comparisons
August 2018

Public Radio and Television in Canada and Switzerland

(Kurt Schläpfer)
The Swiss national broadcaster SRG will never forget March 4, 2018, when a national vote took place to decide if the Swiss population should continue to finance the public radio and television programs. This raises the question of how far public radio and television programs in Canada and Switzerland are financed, and how their benefit is perceived.

In many countries, public broadcasters have been established in order to supply radio and television programs that are otherwise not provided by commercial broadcasters. They rely predominantly on public funding which can either be an obligatory television licence fee or allocations from the governmental budget. The licence fee is a kind of tax which households have to pay no matter if they receive public broadcasting services or not.


The public Canadian broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBS), started its services with radio programs in 1936. Television broadcasts from CBC began on September 6, 1952. In 1950 there were already around 30,000 television sets in Canada, since Canadians near the U.S. border were receiving U.S. television programs. Today, CBC broadcasts in English, French and 8 indigenous languages.

CBC annually receives CAD 30 per capita from the Canadian government budget for its services. Compared to most Western countries and especially Switzerland, this level of funding is very low. Nevertheless, CBC has an excellent reputation. The vast majority of Canadians consider CBC to be an important factor for strengthening Canadian culture and identity. Almost 80% rate CBC's performance in fulfilling its mandate as good, very good or excellent. And even more believe that it is very important for Canada to have a public broadcaster and that CBC is one of the things that helps distinguish Canada from the U.S.


The public broadcaster in Switzerland, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft SRG), started its services in 1931. Regular TV transmissions began on July 20, 1953, initially only one hour per day for five days a week. Colour television was introduced on October 1,1968, more than two years later than in Canada. SRG offers programs in four languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.   

Under current regulations, every Swiss household and company must pay an annual licence fee of CHF 451, regardless of whether or not they use the national radio and television channels. The Swiss licence fee provides an income for the national broadcaster, which is, calculated per capita, six times higher than what the CBC earns from the Canadian government. In view of this high level of public funding, a citizen-initiated referendum was launched to abolish the national radio and TV license fee. On March 4, 2018, the Swiss voters have rejected this proposal with a majority of 72%. It was the fifth unsuccessful attempt since 1982 to question the public licence fee in a nationwide ballot. Communications Minister Doris Leuthard said the result was a verdict against a system with exclusively commercial radio and television programs in Switzerland. With the aim to reform the current system, the government decided last year to lower the fees to CHF 365 for private customers.     

Some data about the national broadcasters:




National public broadcaster

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBS)

Schweizerische Radio- und Fernseh-Gesellschaft (SRG)

Employees (full-time jobs)






8 indigenious languages





Start of regular TV transmission

Sept. 6, 1952

July 20,1953

Start of color TV

July 1, 1966

Oct. 1, 1968

Total income

1.656 billion CAD

1.635 billion CHF

Governmental funding in % of the total income



Commercial revenues* in % of the total income



Licence fee paid per household

no licence fee

451.10 CHF**

Public funding per capita

30 CAD

143 CHF

*includes advertising, licensing and program-sponsorship revenues

**Planned for 2019: 365 CHF

Data Switzerland: 2016

Data Canada: 2016/2017

SCCC Corporate Members
  • Zurich Canada
  • Laderach (Canada) Inc.
  • Custom Spring Corporate
  • Rolex Canada Ltd.
  • Lette LLP
  • Roche Canada
  • Swissmar Ltd.
  • Switzerland Tourism
  • Swiss Business Hub
  • Endress + Hauser Canada Ltd
  • Swiss International Air Lines Ltd.
  • Habib Canadian Bank  (Subsidiary of Habib Bank AG Zurich)