This is public service broadcasting

Public service broadcasting are radio and TV broadcasting done in the service of the public, which means that they must provide a service for all, paid for by all of us.

Their activities must be independent, and they must be independent of the Government and other spheres of influence in society. The idea behind public service broadcasting is that all citizens in a democratic country should have access to impartial and diverse information in various fields.

There has long been broad political agreement on the need for a strong, independent public service alongside commercial media. There is a specific regulatory framework for their activities  to safeguard their independence and maintain a high level of public confidence. This involves a specific form of ownership, long-term broadcasting licences and a specific funding system. The programmes must reflect the diversity of Sweden and be of good quality, comprehensive and relevant.

Offerings and broadcasting licences

Various public service channels

Public service broadcasting involves three different companies in Sweden: Sveriges Television AB (SVT), Sveriges Radio AB (SR) and Utbildningsradion AB (UR). SVT broadcasts four channels, SVT1, SVT2, SVT Barn/SVT24 and Kunskapskanalen, which it shares with UR. Sveriges Radio has four national channels: P1, P2, P3 and P4. P4 is made up of 25 local channels. There are also additional local broadcasts from SR, online broadcasting, podcasts and some digital radio channels.  

Public service broadcasters have broadcasting licences

Public service broadcasters have broadcasting licences decided upon by the Government, and these apply only to terrestrial broadcasting. The licences are valid for six years, after which time they are reviewed. The current period started on 1 January 2020 and runs until 31 December 2025. These licences include specific conditions for public service broadcasters, such as the type of programmes they have to broadcast. They have to broadcast news, cultural programmes, programmes for children and programmes for linguistic minorities and people with disabilities. It is important for the programmes to be factual and impartial and respect the privacy of individuals.

Public service broadcasters are not allowed to broadcast advertising

Public service broadcasters are not allowed to broadcast advertising or use product placement. UR’s programmes must not be sponsored at all, but SVT and SR may use sponsorship with restrictions.

Ownership and funding

Public service broadcasting is owned by a foundation

SR, SVT and UR are limited companies owned by Förvaltningsstiftelsen för Sveriges Radio AB, Sveriges Television AB and Sveriges Utbildningsradio AB. Members are appointed by the Government on the basis of proposals from the political parties. Förvaltningsstiftelsen has been set up to promote the independence of the companies. They do not decide how much money the companies are to receive, nor do they get to decide on the organisation or direction of the companies.

Public service broadcasting funded by a public service charge

Public service broadcasting is funded by an individual public service charge, which is paid through taxes by everyone over 18 years of age who has a taxable income. The public service charge is administered by the Swedish Tax Agency. The three public service broadcasters (SVT, SR and UR) receive SEK 8,563 million (of which SVT receives SEK 5,041 million, SR receives SEK 3,077 million and UR receives SEK 445 million) for their activities each year.

Funding conditions

The Government imposes conditions on how public service broadcasters can spend their money. Since 1 January 2020, this is done in what is known as “funding conditions”, which apply for the entire licensing period from 2020 to 2026. Unlike the broadcasting licence, which applies only to the terrestrial network, the funding conditions regulate everything the public service broadcasters do. Nowadays, all broadcasts are subject to the funding conditions regardless of their form of distribution, including their on-demand services.

Review of public service broadcasters

The Swedish Broadcasting Commission examines public service broadcasters
The Swedish Broadcasting Commission is tasked with assessing each year whether the public service broadcasters have fulfilled their assignments. This assessment is conducted in retrospect on the basis of the reports submitted to the Commission by SVT, SR and UR. In June each year, the Swedish Broadcasting Commission announces its assessment of the public service broadcasters’ activities for the previous year.

Public service value test

The three public service broadcasters must report certain new services and significant changes to these services to the Government for approval if they form part of their complementary activities. Notification must also be sent to the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority. The services to be reported are new services of major importance, but substantial changes to existing services also have to be reported. The Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority conducts prior assessment of the service after a report has been received from either the public service broadcaster in question or someone else.

Related links

Read more about the public service companies on their websites.