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Swiss Broadcasting Corporation
Swiss Broadcasting Corporation

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR; German: Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft, French: Société suisse de radiodiffusion et télévision, Italian: Società svizzera di radiotelevisione, Romansh: Societad Svizra da Radio e Televisiun) is the Swiss public broadcasting association, founded in 1931. Headquartered in Bern,[1] the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation is a non-profit organisation, funded mainly through radio and television licence fees (70%) and making the remaining income from advertising and sponsorship.

Switzerland's system of direct democracy and the fact that the country has four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) mean that the structure of Swiss public service broadcasting is rather complicated. The actual holders of the broadcasting licences that enable SRG SSR to operate are four regional corporations:

These four corporations maintain SRG SSR as a joint central production and broadcasting association. The fifth business unit of the SRG SSR is the ten-language news platform Swissinfo.


The association's official name is Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft (SRG, formerly "Schweizerische Rundspruchgesellschaft") in German, Société suisse de radiodiffusion et télévision (SSR, formerly "Société suisse de radiodiffusion") in French, Società svizzera di radiotelevisione (SSR, formerly "Società svizzera di radiodiffusione") in Italian, and Societad svizra da radio e televisiun (SSR, formerly "Societad svizra da radio") in Romansh. The corporate name, SRG SSR, is derived from its initials in German, French, Italian and Romansh. In English, the organisation is known as the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation; it often uses the abbreviation "SBC". The moniker "idée suisse" (French: Swiss idea), which refers to the public service mission of the organisation, was adopted in 1999 and was removed from the name in May 2011.


Europe's third public radio station started broadcasting from Lausanne in 1922, from the start based on a licence fee system. 980 licences were bought in 1923. Within a few years radio cooperatives working along the same principles had started throughout the country. In 1930 it was decided that radio was an important public service that should not be allowed to become a money maker for private interests, and that it needed to be structured on a federal basis. In 1931 SRG SSR was founded (see original names above), as a co-ordination organisation for the regional broadcast associations, and received the only licence to broadcast from the Federal Council. The same year it was agreed that all news reports in the new medium had to be provided by the Swiss news agency SDA, a decision that remained unchanged until 1971.

The first national transmitters began operating in 1931: Radio Sottens for French, Radio Beromünster for German, and 1933 Radio Monte Ceneri for Italian. In 1938 Romansh was recognised as the country's fourth national language, and the Zürich studios began broadcasting programmes in Romansh in between those in German. During the Second World War, SRG SSR filled an important function as a neutral, unbiased supplier of news, reaching far outside Switzerland's borders through shortwave transmissions. Radio Beromünster and Radio Monte Ceneri became known as the only free German and Italian-language radio stations in Europe.

In 1950 SRG SSR was one of 23 founding broadcasting organisations of the European Broadcasting Union. In 1939 television test transmissions started in Zürich. In 1953 regular TV transmissions started in German (from Zürich) – one hour per evening, five days a week – immediately attracting 920 early TV licence buyers. A year later, in 1954, French transmissions were broadcast from Geneva. For the Italian-speaking region, the programmes were re-transmitted with Italian subtitles until dedicated Italian studios were built in 1958. 50,000 TV licences were bought the first year.

In 1960 the company was renamed Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft (and the equivalent names in the other languages - see above) to reflect the addition of television services. In 1964 the Federal Council allowed television advertising, as a means of keeping licence fees down. In 1966 the three main languages were each given a second radio channel, in order to counter the effects of new commercial broadcasters outside the country, whose strong signals were reaching the Swiss population. In the same year a dedicated Romansh broadcasting unit was created in Chur, using some of the new German-language second channel's broadcasting time. In 1968 colour television was introduced, and the number of licence fee payers passed one million.

In 1978 the radio channels started stereo transmissions. In 1983 the Federal Council relaxed the Swiss media legislation to permit local private and commercial radio channels. SRG SSR countered this threat by launching its third set of channels, aimed at a younger audience. In 1991 SRG SSR underwent a wide-ranging restructuring. The enterprise organised itself as a private industry association, structured as a holding company under Swiss company law. The name, SRG SSR idée suisse, was introduced. In 1992 Radio Rumantsch was separated from the German-language radio broadcaster, that had housed the Romansh broadcasting activities since 1938, and in 1994 the Romansh TV activities were moved over as well and the Romansh company renamed itself Radio e Televisiun Rumantscha.


SRG SSR is located in Bern. It is governed by a Board of Directors, appointed by a central council consisting of representatives of the four organisations.

Broadcasting is handled by five business units:

In addition, there are six subsidiary companies which produce TV programmes, teletext pages, book publishing, TV commercials, and audience research.

Terrestrially, the only television channels available in the whole of Switzerland are SRF 1, RTS Un, and RSI La 1, but the other channels are available in the linguistic regions represented by the broadcast language, and also nationally via cable and satellite.


The former abbreviation SRI originally stood only for "Swiss Radio International", which was SRG SSR's international broadcasting arm (1935-2004)[2], aimed at expatriates and others interested in Switzerland. In October 2004, SRI ceased broadcasting on shortwave and satellite, and instead concentrated its efforts on its multimedia internet platform, which now takes most of the resources. The Swissinfo website is produced in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Japanese.


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