TV licence system outdated, says Centre Party

The television licence fee that finances Sweden's public service broadcasters may soon be consigned to the scrapheap. The Centre Party has now come around to the view that the licence system is outdated, a view shared by alliance partners in the Moderate and Liberal parties.

“I am concerned that people will lose the feeling of being duty bound to pay the licence in a digital era, where we are paying different companies for a larger output. Viasat, for example.

“People may also be less willing to pay the licence in a changing media landscape, where soon every mobile phone will be able to receive television programmes,” Anders Åkesson, the Centre Party’s spokesman for cultural affairs, told Svenska Dagbladet.

In order to preserve their independence, Åkesson is willing to consider tax funding as a means of financing public service companies.

“Yes, it’s possible. But if they are to be tax funded it must be organised in such a way that it is not subject to annual revision in the national budget. If that were the case our national broadcaster would not be independent,” said Åkesson.

With three out of four parties against the licence, only the Christian Democrats are left flying the flag in the centre-right alliance.

“The licence system is still relatively stable. Tax funding would lead to greater insecurity for public service companies,” Christian Democrat party spokesman Dan Kihlström told Svenska Dagbladet.

The Moderates favour financing public service through the tax system. The Liberals meanwhile have come up with the altogether more novel suggestion of selling off state companies to create funds from which television companies can apply for money.

But the public service companies themselves would prefer to keep things as they are.

“It works well with the licence on the whole. It is a system by which those who consume public service pay. It protects the companies’ independence.

“If funding comes though the tax system there is a risk that the companies will be regarded as part of the state sphere. And I have no faith at all in the funds idea,” Peter Örn, CEO of Sveriges Radio, told Svenska Dagbladet.

A parliamentary group is to begin looking into the matter next year.

The government has already shortened the public service companies’ broadcasting permission, which will run out in 2009. First then will it be possible to implement any changes to the regulations surrounding public service broadcasters.