Subsidized stations offer more variety and more suisa repertoire

In 2017, the Swiss Music Association presented a "SwissMusicOnAir Award" for the first time. The award was given to the licensed private radio station with the highest proportion of Swiss music in its program: the subsidized local station in Bern, Radio BeO. (Image: Radio BeO)

Subsidized radio and TV stations in Switzerland and Liechtenstein tend to give more airplay to music from SUISA members than privately funded stations. In addition, most federally supported stations play many more different music titles than their counterparts focused on advertising revenues. In the interest of local music creation and cultural diversity, an abolition of the solidary levies for public service media should therefore be rejected.

On average, subsidized Swiss radio stations play a higher proportion of music by SUISA members than private stations without public funding. In addition, the number of different music titles in the programs of the federally supported stations is usually significantly higher than that of their mainly advertising-financed counterparts.

Thus, (co-)funding by the federal government contributes to Swiss music creation and diversity in broadcasting programs. That this conclusion is not made up out of thin air is evident from usage report data available to the collecting societies SUISA and Swissperform.

In order for a company to broadcast radio and/or television programs in Switzerland and Liechtenstein or to feed them into cable networks, a licence agreement with SUISA is necessary. Under this agreement, broadcasters are required to provide SUISA with precise information on the programming broadcast.

Broadcasting shares for music by members of SUISA

The information on the music broadcast must include, among other things, the titles of the musical works, the names of the composers and the performers as well as the broadcast duration. The detailed information enables a correct distribution of the royalties collected: The income is paid out to those authors and publishers whose works were played in the programs according to the broadcast reports.

In addition, the sum of the broadcast messages provides an overview of the entire music programming of a station. In particular, SUISA is able to evaluate the share of music played by its own members in a well-founded manner. As soon as at least one of the authors is a SUISA member, a piece of music is considered a SUISA work in the evaluation. A music title whose composers and lyricists are exclusively non-SUISA members shall be counted as part of the rest of the repertoire for the purposes of this share calculation, irrespective of the performers.

A look at the calculated broadcast shares from 2016 reveals a clear trend: Subsidized radios give more space to the music of SUISA members than privately funded stations. It should be noted here: SUISA repertoire is increasingly played not only in SRG programs, but also at local stations such as Radio BeO, Kanal K or Radio Stadtfilter. The latter also receive shares of the radio and TV fees. The associated program mandate shows its effect here.

In detail, the programming mandates for the national (SRG) and the regional (local broadcasters) public service are different. However, both are overridden by the principle in Article 93 of the Federal Constitution: "Radio and television contribute to education and cultural development, to the free formation of opinion and to entertainment. They take into account the specifics of the country and the needs of the cantons. They present events in a factual manner and adequately express the diversity of views."

Diversity in the music programming of Swiss radio stations

SRG's cultural mandate includes cultural reporting as well as education in the cultural field and cultural promotion. As part of this performance mandate, SRG agreed with music industry associations and institutions in the Charter of Swiss Music on benchmarks for promoting Swiss musical creativity in its radio programming. The positive influence of the public service mandate on programming diversity is evidenced by an analysis of radio broadcasts from 2015, based on an evaluation by Swissperform:

Proportion of Swiss music and program diversity in Swiss radio stations (evaluation 2015)
SRG station Share of CH music in total music programming (in %) Number of different music titles Private stations Share of CH music in total music programming (in %) Number of different music titles
SRF MW 40,31 28'978 Radio 24 12,16 2'320
Swiss Classic 37,38 4'007 Argovia 10,25 2'669
Swiss Jazz 21,07 10'645 Sunshine 11,75 1'746
Virus 57,60 8'206 Central 16,32 6'885
Swiss Pop 36,78 4'929 Zurisee 10,45 4'319
SRF 3 21,25 13'702 Pilatus 11,32 2'389
SRF 2 8,22 16'826 Energy Zurich 1'670
SRF 1 16,95 12'189
Rete Uno 7,45 8'600
Rete Due 8,99 18'335
Rete Tre 14,73 14'209
RTR 37,23 18'176
RTS 1 6,25 12'728
RTS 2 14,28 27'075
RTS 3 20,89 19'220
Option Musique 12,81 6'881
Total 224'706 41'753
Average 22,64 14'044 12,04 3'143
Source: Swissperform


According to this survey, Swiss musicians were involved in almost every fourth piece of music played on SRG stations in 2015 (share of CH music: 23 %). The average proportion of Swiss music broadcast by advertising-financed private stations was only 12 percent.

The comparison of the number of different music titles illustrates another significant difference in the programs evaluated: The audience of SRG stations got to hear an average of 14,044 different recordings throughout the year. In the programs of the private radio stations, an average of 3143 recordings were played during twelve months, i.e. significantly fewer different music titles. To exaggerate: 9 different songs per day rotated on these private stations.

In the interest of Swiss music NO to No Billag

The popular initiative marketed under the deceptive name of "No Billag" aims to completely abolish radio and television taxes. The initiators are not targeting Billag, the collection agency. Instead, it should be stipulated in the Federal Constitution that the Confederation does not subsidize radio and television stations. At the same time, if the initiative is accepted, the previously mentioned principle that radio and television must contribute to cultural development and take into account the specifics of the country would be deleted from the Federal Constitution without replacement.

In a purely commercial radio and television landscape, broadcasters inevitably focus on their advertising revenues. The current facts about the broadcasting shares of Swiss music and the number of different music titles give an impression of the effect this economic orientation has on the program contents. In the interest of local music creation and cultural diversity, an abolition of the solidarity-based levies for service public media should therefore be firmly rejected.

Additional information:
Complete evaluations of the broadcast shares of SUISA works in both SRG radio broadcasts and in broadcasts of private radio stations from 2016 are published at:

A collection of signatures is currently underway among Swiss cultural professionals for an appeal with which they will jointly position themselves against the No Billag initiative and advocate for a culturally diverse Switzerland. The appeal is coordinated by the Swiss Performers' Cooperative SIG and Swissperform and supported by numerous representatives from the cultural sector such as SUISA, music creators, the Music Council and many more. In January 2018, the cultural practitioners plan to go public with their joint appeal.

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