New financing of public service adopted
The Riksdag has decided that the current radio and television licence fee, which is paid by all households that have a television, will be replaced by an individual public service fee. The fee will be collected via the tax system. The fees will be administered in a closed system that is handled separately from other funds in the central government budget.
The system will be introduced on 1 January 2019. Along with the new fee, other changes will also be introduced aimed at strengthening the independence of public service broadcasting.
Public service broadcasting in Sweden
Public service broadcasting is done in the service of the public, independently of central government and other political or economic spheres of power in society. The overarching remit is to disseminate a broad and varied range of programmes that reflect the whole of Sweden and the variation in the population.
Public service broadcasting in Sweden is carried out by three companies: Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio), Sveriges Television (Swedish Television) and Utbildningsradion (the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company).
What does the decision entail?
The current radio and television licence fee, which is paid by all households that have a television, will be replaced by an individual public service fee. The public service fee will be paid by everyone who is 18 or older and has a taxable earned income.
The public service fee will be one per cent of the taxable earned income, up to a ceiling amount. (The ceiling will be reached with a monthly income of approximately SEK 13 600). This means that upon introduction, the fee will be at most just over SEK 1 300 per person and year.
If a person’s monthly income is less than SEK 13 600, the fee will be reduced.
This also means that the fee for all single-adult households and single parent households will be almost halved (the current radio and television licence is SEK 2 400 per year).
How will the independence of public broadcasting be strengthened?
In connection with the introduction of the new fee, other changes will also be introduced aimed at strengthening the independence of public service broadcasting:
- It will be made clearer in the legislation that the fee may only be used for the financing of public service broadcasting.
- Public service broadcasting licences will be valid for 8 years and always begin in January of an election year. The licence period that begins in 2020 will last for 6 years in order to adapt the system to ordinary general elections.
- The Riksdag’s decisions on allocation of funding to the broadcasters will apply for an entire licence period.
- The members of the Förvaltningsstiftelse (the owner foundation of the three public service companies) may no longer be active Members of the Riksdag.
The Government has also appointed an inquiry on constitutional reform to analyse whether the public service companies’ independence is sufficiently guaranteed through the current regulations or whether their independence can and should be further strengthened through amendments to the constitution.
How will the fee be collected?
The fee will be collected by Skatteverket (the Swedish Tax Agency) and taken up on the income tax return. The Swedish Tax Agency will pay the collected fees to a special public service account administered by Kammarkollegiet (the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency). Through this, the money will be administered in a closed system separate from the rest of the central government budget, as is currently the case. The money in the account may only be used to finance public service activities.
How high will the public service fee be?
Size of the fee (2019)
- In 2019, the fee will at most be just over SEK 1 300 per person and year.
- People with a monthly income less than approximately SEK 13 600 will pay a reduced fee, from a few kronor up to a maximum amount of just over SEK 1 300 per year.
- People without a taxable earned income, such as students who only receive student aid, will not pay any fee.
- Legal persons, such as companies, will no longer need to pay a fee.
Why is this being done?
There is a broad consensus among the political parties and the actors concerned that the current financing system with the radio and television licence must be changed. For a few years now, the number of households paying the radio and television licence has been decreasing, despite the number of households in Sweden increasing. Increasing numbers of households are foregoing televisions and instead watching television broadcasts via other platforms, such as computers, tablets and mobile phones. In the long term, this trend puts the financing of public service at risk.
The decision is based on proposals submitted by the cross-party committee of inquiry on public service broadcasting, which is made up of representatives of all the parties in the Riksdag (Swedish Government Official Report SOU 2017:79).
When will the changes be introduced?
The system will be introduced on 1 January 2019. The fee will be reported the first time on the income tax return in spring 2020.