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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

DISCOVER SWITZERLAND

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails. However, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking every year, and some die. Here is what you need to know to be safe.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

The Swiss mountains are one of the country’s most notable and most visited sites. There are activities to enjoy during all seasons and hiking the Swiss Alps is something that people of all ages enjoy in the winter or summer months.

However, mountain rescuers are called every year to help people in emergencies. Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress – a number higher than in any other type of sport. In 2021, there were only 500 emergency calls from skiers and 342 made by mountain bikers.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Swiss Alps could cost you thousands

Bruno Hasler, who is responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, says that many people overestimate themselves and that is dangerous. “The hikers need to be better informed. The authorities must inform people as well as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking”, he told public broadcaster SRF.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

The first recommendation is to make a realistic self-assessment. Mountain hiking is an endurance sport and people planning on doing a trek should avoid time pressure and choose their trails and times well.

In that sense, it is essential to make careful route planning and evaluate the length, altitude, difficulty and current conditions (including weather forecast) of the trek. Thunderstorms, snow, wind and cold significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Don’t forget to plan alternative routes and keep emergency rescue numbers on hand (REGA 1414 and the european emergency number 112).

READ ALSO : Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Take practical equipment for your hiking conditions and the proper footwear too. In a backpack, take as little as possible but as much as necessary, aiming to keep it light but full of valuable things such as sun protection, a first aid kit, rescue blanket, water and a mobile phone.

The most common cause of accidents is falling because of slipping or tripping, so be sure to walk on marked paths (reducing the risk of getting lost) and keep a sure foot and safe pace.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks not only for eating and drinking (necessary to maintain performance and concentration) but also to enjoy the landscape.

Be responsible for the children in the group, treks that require long-lasting concentration are not suitable for children and in passages with risk of falling, and one adult can only look after one child, according to the Swiss Alpine Club. Small groups are the best for hiking because they ensure mutual assistance and flexibility at the same time.

Rega on a rescue mission in the Swiss Alps. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The PACE checklist

The so-called PACE checklist helps hikers keep track of the most important things. PACE means plan, assess, consider, and evaluate, Swiss Alpine Club SAC says.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Plan your route and duration and give yourself extra time and alternatives. Inform someone else about your trip. Assess if the hike is suitable for you, and do not undertake challenging trips yourself. Consider if you have what you need for the walk, like sturdy hiking shoes, protection against harsh weather and food and water supplies.

Finally, evaluate while hiking. See if you are too tired, keep eating, drinking and resting regularly and pay attention to the time you need and any changes in the weather. Do not leave the marked trail and turn back in time if necessary.

What to do in case of an accident?

If there are accidents during your hike, you should first provide life-saving help to anyone seriously injured and then call emergency services. Do not leave the wounded alone and do not put yourself at risk.

Mark the accident area clearly and give signals. The international emergency call sign consists of giving a sign (such as a flashing light or waving a cloth) six times a minute and then repeating it after one minute.

READ ALSO: Rega: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service

For helicopters, holding both your arms up (making a V shape) signals that you need help, while keeping one arm up and another down (forming a diagonal line with your arms) means you do not need help.

If you see animals, keep your distance and do not disturb them. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

What do I do if I see animals on my hike?

It’s common to find animals while hiking in the Swiss alps, especially cows in the pastures. A cow will protect their calves, so keep your distance. Do not touch the animals, and keep dogs on a leash.

Slowly and carefully move around at a distance and continue your trek.

You may occasionally find herds that dogs protect. It’s possible to inform yourself online in advance to find out where these herds are and avoid them. Still, remember that packs and their guardian dogs should be disturbed as little as possible. So stay calm and keep your distance – avoid any brisk movements.

If you are hiking with your dog, put it on a leash and slowly and calmly detour around the livestock.

If a guard dog barks and runs in your direction, try to stay calm and give the dog time to assess the situation. Stay far from the herd, don’t run or make sudden movements. You can use a stick to keep the dog at a distance by stretching them out, but don’t raise it or wave it around.

Once the dogs have accepted your presence and stopped barking, continue at a slow pace on your way.

Don’t forget: the Swiss rescue number is 1414 or you can also reach them using the European emergency number 112.

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