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Switzerland - TV

Your TV subscription in Switzerland can be part of a package with your telephone, mobile and internet, or a combination of these. In 2010 around 55% of households had access to digital TV in Switzerland. The majority of people receive TV via a cable connection (either analogue or digital), with 17% using satellite in 2010 and 7% having digital terrestrial reception (DVB-T). 12% at the time had internet TV (IPTV). The coverage of digital services in Switzerland continues to be extended.

Swisscable is the umbrella body responsible for cable services in Switzerland. Simply visit their website and enter your address in Switzerland on the homepage to find your local cable operator. The largest provider is UPC Cablecom who covers all but two of the Swiss cantons. Digital television via UPC Cablecom is available to customers through a DigiCard (currently CHF 99), which replaces the set-top box. Different monthly-subscription packages are also available allowing a choice of either 55+, 120+ or 175+ digital channels, plus the analogue channels and 100+ radio channels. A number of HD channels are included and add-on services include an HD receiver/recorder and Video on Demand, all delivered via a Mediabox. The full channel list for each package is available via the UPC Cablecom website. You can subscribe to a package online or by phone. If you enter your phone number on the UPC Cablecom website you will receive a free callback.

Note that the vast majority of channels in German-speaking Switzerland will be in German or Swiss German, with some French and Italian channels. For German language channels, presenters may speak in the local dialect but the news bulletins will be delivered in standard German. As standard, you can expect to receive BBC World News, CNN International, and CNBC in English. UPC Cablecom's 'Classic' and 'Comfort' channels include a full range of popular British TV channels from the BBC, ITV, and 4. The 'Comfort' package also has ESPN America plus premium channels such as National Geographic and Eurosport, some of which are available in English in addition to the German language versions.

You can receive Sky satellite channels in Switzerland with the use of a dish aligned to Astra 2A/2B (in the South, Astra 2D) plus a Sky viewing card. You can buy a dish at Media Markt and have it installed by a local satellite/TV engineer. Bear in mind that the Swiss authorities are sticklers for regulations and you will have to ensure that you are not falling foul of any planning or building rules if you install a satellite dish. Neither will all locations be suitable. Order your satellite subscription from INSAT International, who are based in the UK. For Swiss satellite TV you will need to tune your dish to Hotbird 13E or Astra 19.2E and will be able to receive a number of free-to-air channels. See http://www.worldlanguagestv.co.uk/ch-Switzerland/ for a list of current channel availability.

Swisscom TV air (formerly Bluewin TV) is the main IPTV provider in Switzerland. No cable connection is required for IPTV, instead you will need a telephone line and broadband internet.

Expats report that TV sets brought over from the UK work fine in Switzerland, although you will need to attach a new plug and to use a SCART lead as tuners tend to be incompatible. You will not be able to connect it directly to digital cable TV but can use it with a satellite or a set-top box. It is unlikely to be worthwhile to ship a TV from further afield, such as North America. You will need to change the voltage and switch to PAL (unless connecting to HD), in addition to the measures described for UK television sets. Shipping is likely to be costly.

If you are receiving television by any means whatsoever in Switzerland, you must have a TV licence. TV licensing is the responsibility of Billag and is strictly enforced with spot checks. You can pay for your Billag licence by bank transfer, direct debit or e-billing. Billing is now on an annual basis, but quarterly billing is available on request for a surcharge of CHF 2 per bill. On leaving Switzerland, you can write to Billag with your bank details (include your I-BAN) if you hold an annual licence and will be given a refund for whole months remaining.

For a non-commercial (i.e. private residence) licence, the annual tariff is currently CHF 462.40 (i.e. CHF 38.55 per month). This includes radio reception and VAT. Licence fees principally fund TV and radio production in Switzerland. The high cost is a result of the need to produce programmes in the four languages of Switzerland. You must pay even if you are only watching satellite transmissions from abroad and do not watch any Swiss TV at all. Likewise, there is no reduction if you live in an area of poor reception. You must also have a licence for your private viewing even if you are paying a share of communal TV connection costs in your Nebenkosten in rented accommodation. Don't wait for the Billag inspector to call. Although you will only have to buy a licence at the time of the visit, Billag do state that you will be reported to OFCOM (the Federal Office of Communications, G: BAKOM) for failure to register. OFCOM can then choose to fine you up to CHF 5,000.

A TV schedule for Switzerland is available online from Schweizer Fernsehen (SF). The Swiss watch a combination of home-grown programmes and those from Europe and the US, frequently dubbed. Popular cartoons and comedy shows are dubbed into German/French, as are movies.

Useful Resources

UPC Cablecom
Major Swiss cable service provider
UPC Cablecom GmbH, Industriestrasse 19-21, CH 8112 Otelfingen
Tel: 0800 66 88 66
Tel: +41 800 66 88 66 (international)

INSAT International
Sky TV provider for Switzerland
Insat International, 1A Gateway Mews, Ringway, Bounds Green, London N11 2UT, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 208 361 1790
Email: info@insatinternational.com

Swisscom (TV air)
http://www.swisscom.ch/ (available in English)
Swisscom (Switzerland) AG, Contact Center, CH 3050 Bern
Tel: 0800 800 800 (free)
Tel: +41 848 800 811 (international, charges apply)
Email: fixnet.contactcenter@swisscom.com

TV licensing
Billag SA, Contact Center, Case postale, CH 1701 Fribourg
Tel: +41 (0)844 834 834
Email: info@billag.com

SF Schweizer Fernsehen
Swiss TV schedule

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