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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: Why must I pay for a Swiss TV license if I don’t watch TV?

Many foreigners moving to Switzerland are surprised (and not pleasantly so) to discover the expensive obligation to pay the annual television tax — regardless of whether they actually watch TV or even have one.

Reader question: Why must I pay for a Swiss TV license if I don’t watch TV?
License to watch: Each household has to pay the TV tax. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsp

To be fair, Switzerland is not the only country on the face of the earth that requires each household to pay this fee — for instance, the UK, Germany, France, and a number of other nations have some form of TV licenses as well.

In Switzerland, you are required to pay this tax once a year, which also includes any radios and computers in one’s house — basically, any and all devices that broadcast information.

So it doesn’t really matter whether you watch (or listen to) programmes on a TV set, your smartphone, tablet, or  computer; in all these cases, you are required by law to pay the fee.

The government outsources the collection process to a company called Serafe, which replaced the previous collector, Billag, in 2019.

This money is being used to subsidise the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, a public media company, and a range of private regional radio and TV stations.

According to Serafe, “without the radio and television fee, it would not be possible to provide a high-quality public service in the field of electronic media. Numerous radio and television broadcasters in all four language regions of Switzerland are funded by your fee. The federal government determines how much of the radio and television fee goes to the individual stations”.

How much is the fee?

The pleasure of watching your favourite TV show doesn’t come cheap in Switzerland, but the good news is that, contrary to prices of most goods and services, which usually go up rather than down, the cost of a TV license actually dropped in the past few years.

And this is also one case where the amount you have to pay is not based on your canton of residence — a true rarity in Switzerland.

In 2018, the annual lump-sum tax was 451 francs per household, which dropped to 365 francs a year later. Then, in 2021, the price declined further, to 355 francs, where it remains to this day. However, the Swiss government announced in April 2022 that further reductions were being considered due to a surplus of funds, but this is still up in the air. 

The fee is the same regardless of the number of TV sets or radios you own, or even if you don’t own any at all.

The fee is also charged on a per household basis, meaning that a person living alone will need to pay the same amount as a sharehouse with four inhabitants. 

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Switzerland’s TV licence

What happens if you don’t pay this license; will your TV be blocked?

No, this is not the way it works. However, this tax is mandatory — as other taxes are — so you have no choice in the matter.

The only way you could avoid these payments is if you qualify for an exemption under one of these criteria:

  • You are receiving supplementary AHV-IV benefits from the federal government, because your old-age or invalidity pension and other income are not sufficient to meet minimal living costs.
  • You live in a household without adequate reception, which means you can’t watch TV or listen to the radio due to to structural flaws of your house.
  • You live alone and are either deaf or blind. But if other people who live with you can hear and see, then the household is liable to pay the fee.
  • You or members of your family are diplomats or are employed at international organisations like the United Nations.
  • You receive social assistance. In this case, the license fee is already taken into account in the calculation of your benefits. 

More information about how to ask for an exemption, and other details about the TV license, can be found here.

Note, too, that this tax doesn’t cover the cost of any streaming services you may have, such as Netflix, Apple TV, and others.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s strangest taxes – and what happens if you don’t pay them

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

REVEALED: The Swiss cities turning off their lights for weekend meteor shower

The Perseids is one of the best annual meteor showers, showing their fireballs on warm summer nights in the northern hemisphere. In Switzerland, some towns want to make the event even more special by turning off their lights.

REVEALED: The Swiss cities turning off their lights for weekend meteor shower

Every year, skywatchers get ready for the Perseid meteor shower, which in 2022 is going to peak in the early hours of Saturday, just before dawn. At its peak, it will be possible to see about 200 shooting starts per hour if the conditions are optimal.

The Perseids, as this particular meteor shower is known, are fragments of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Its small dust particles (not actual stars) burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. They can be observed worldwide but are best viewed in the northern hemisphere.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

And they may be in large parts of Switzerland. Despite the full moon blocking some of the views (don’t worry, the moon should set at around 2 am), the skies should be clear of clouds during the early hours of Saturday, according to the Swiss meteorology agency MeteoSchweiz.

Some cities also want to remove another major obstacle to stargazing: the artificial lightning that hides most of our stars, the Milky Way, and many shooting stars. The Projet Perseides invites Swiss towns to turn off municipal lights and incentivise stargazing.

The project, created in the French-speaking cantons, has gathered support mainly in western Swiss, but, according to the organisers: “Ultimately, we are targeting the whole of Europe”.

Which cities are participating?

You can find the complete list of municipalities here. The communes include Champagne, Grandson, La Chaux, Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Provence, Yverdon-les-Bains, Fribourg, and more than 100 others.

The project invites the municipalities to turn off their public lightning and convince citizens and businesses to do the same – all voluntarily.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

Projet Perseides started in Orbe in 2019 when the non-profit association convinced the town and surrounding municipalities to turn out the lights. In 2020, nearly 120 Vaud cities joined the project. The following year, they were joined by cities in Valais, Fribourg and Neuchâtel, according to the site.

What if my city is not among them?

Even if your city is not a part of the project, it is still possible to watch the phenomenon. The best time would be between 2 am (when the bright full moon sets) and pre-dawn hours, so until around 5 am.

The association says: “to enjoy the night, don’t look at light sources. Let your eyes become accustomed to the darkness”. This includes ditching your phone for a few hours.

If you can visit a part of town with little artificial light, perhaps going up a mountain, for example, you also improve your chances of seeing more of the shower.

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