Swiss voters have rejected a move to boost state funding for the media, which has seen advertising revenues evaporate in recent years.

In a referendum on a government decision to expand financial support to Swiss media, close to 55% of voters said 'No'.

Last year, the parliament approved a new government decision to more than double the financial support to private media organisations.

The move was widely welcomed by the media which has come under significant financial pressure as advertising revenues have increasingly gone to large internet platforms.

But it met with strong opposition from politicians and publishers on the right, who forced a referendum on the issue under Switzerland's direct democracy system.

They argued the subsidy would mainly benefit large media groups and would be a waste of public funds.

Switzerland, a country of 8.6 million people, counts four official languages and significant cultural differences across its small, mountainous territory.

This long fuelled a vibrant regional media landscape, but in Switzerland like elsewhere, the media world has been decimated by the rapid shift towards free, digital news consumption.

In the past 20 years, advertising for privately owned newspapers, magazines and radio stations in the country has shrunk by 40%, according to official statistics.

As a consequence, some 70 Swiss newspapers have reportedly disappeared since 2003.

Bern had wanted to expand its support to the sector with an additional 151 million Swiss francs (€144m) a year, arguing this could secure the survival of many small, regional papers in peril, and also assist with their costly digital transition.

Its plan had the backing of some 80 media companies and other organisations, including Reporters Without Borders.

"Without this package, there is a risk that more newspapers will disappear, that local radio will be weakened, and that certain regions will no longer have news sites," Swiss Communications Minister Simonetta Sommaruga warned.

But the populist rightwing Swiss People's Party - Switzerland's largest party - with some support within centre and right-leaning parties and rightwing media, pushed the issue to a referendum.

They charged that the government project would particularly benefit the wealthiest publishers and biggest media companies, which have generated significant profits in recent years.

The opponents also maintain that the state subsidy would weaken media independence and would prevent criticism of politicians and authorities.

Ban on animal testing rejected in separate referendum

In other referendums held today, Swiss voters rejected a proposal by animal rights activists to make Switzerland the first country to ban medical and scientific experiments on animals, but approved tougher restrictions on cigarette advertising.

Only 21% of voters were in favour of the animal experiment ban, with 79% against, according to government figures.

Supporters had wanted to halt tests, saying they are unethical and unnecessary, but ran into opposition from the country's powerful pharmaceuticals lobby, which warned of the economic damage such a ban could cause.

In another vote today, voters approved tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising with 57% in favour.

The restrictions will see such advertising banned in newspapers, cinemas, the internet, at events, and on billboards, with supporters saying such adverts encourage youth smoking.

And the government's proposal to scrap the 1% tax on raising equity was opposed by 63% with only 37% in favour, an outcome Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said sent a negative signal to businesses seeking to invest in Switzerland.