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France/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

In France there is public service of broadcasting as well as many private broadcasting companies.

The French television sector considerably expanded since the abolition of the State monopoly on TV channels in the 1980s, and the multiplication of thematic or local channels on the cable and satellite networks. There are more than 200 broadline and thematic channels today, compared to three public channels in 1980. The transition to digital terrestrial television, which was achieved at the end of 2011, did not notably increase the diversity of free-access media. Many new channels are subsidiaries of the main existing channels and broadcast a great number of reruns.

In the field of radio, the law of 29 July 1982 ended the public monopoly and allowed the multiplication of radio stations (the first ones were named "independent radio stations"). There are 1 200 radio operators in France today, including about 600 associative radios. A Fund of support for radio expression (Fonds de soutien à l'expression radiophonique, FSER), created in 1982 and allocated by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, helps these associative radios with installation, functioning and equipment.

The French Broadcasting Authority (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel, CSA) is the independent authority in charge of regulating broadcasting (television and radio only). It is composed of nine members; three members are renewed every two years. In every renewal, one member is appointed by the President of the Republic (who also appoints, every six years, the member who chairs the CSA), another one by the President of the Senate and the third by the President of the National Assembly. The CSA is responsible for ensuring the quality and diversity of programming, the development of national television production and creation, and to defend and promote the French language and French culture. It can formulate proposals on the improvement of the quality of programmes, and manages the quotas on the distribution of French-speaking programmes and music, the quotas on the speech time during the elections, etc. In 2007, the CSA set up a working group on diversity and an Observatory of Diversity, which assist the CSA on all the questions relative to diversity in the media. Every year, the CSA reports to the Parliament on the representation of diversity of French on television. Besides, a committee Médias et Diversité worked within the framework of the Commissionership on diversity and equal opportunity that existed from 2008 to 2012 (see chapter 4.2.4), and produced a report in 2010, containing proposals and recommendations.

In 1997 media and entertainment professionals created Club Averroès to promote diversity in the media. This Club has 400 members. Since 2006, the Club publishes every year a report on ethnic diversity in the French media sector. The advocacy action of the Club contributed, for example, to the adoption in 2009 by the CSA of a measure for the inclusion of a compulsory clause on diversity in the specifications of television channels. In 2010, France Télévisions, the CNC (National Centre of Cinema) and the ACSÉ (Agence nationale pour la Cohésion sociale et l'Égalité des chances, which merged in 2014 with the CGET commissariat général à l’Égalité des territoires, commission for territorial equity) set up the France Télévisions Prize for Diversity, which rewards 3 television films on the theme of diversity, proposed by authors having already written or realised a work of fiction (short film, television fiction, full-length film): the first prize is endowed with 20 000 EUR; the second 15 000 EUR and the third 10 000 EUR.

Public service broadcasting

  • France Télévisions: the group gathers 5 national channels (France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5 and France Ô) and an overseas network: the Network Outre-mer 1ère and a radio network. It is the first French broadcasting group;
  • Radio France which manages radio stations (France Inter, France Info, France Culture, France Musiques, FIP, Mouv' and the France Bleu network of regional radios), and musical formations: the Orchestre national de France, Orchestre Philarmonique de Radio France, Chœur de Radio France and Maîtrise de Radio France;
  • Arte France, which broadcasts, in association with the German company Arte Deutschland GmbH, the programmes of the French-German and European-oriented TV channel Arte;
  • the society France Médias Monde, which federates Radio France Internationale (RFI) and its arabic-speaking branch Monte Carlo Doualiya, and France 24, a news TV station that is broadcasted on three different channels in French, English and Arabic;
  • France Médias Monde is also a shareholder with 12.58% of TV5 Monde, a French-speaking multilateral world television channel (France Télévisions 49%, Arte France 3.29%, National Audiovisual Institute 1.74%), which is developed with Belgian, Swiss and Canadian partners. Broadcasted in more than 207 million homes and more than 200 countries, TV5 is one of the five bigger world TV networks; and
  • the Institut national de l'audiovisuel, (INA, National Audiovisual Institute), which handles the conservation and promotion of the broadcasting and audiovisual archives;
  • France Télévisions, Radio France, France Médias Monde and INA associated to create France Info, a public ongoing news channel.

The public licence fee on broadcasting (Contribution l'audiovisuel public) is the main resource of public service broadcasting. In 2011, it represents 84.4% of the public resources allocated to public broadcasting. The amount of this fee in 2016 is EUR 137 in mainland France and of EUR 87 in French overseas territories.

Generally speaking, public channels are responsible for broadcasting public cultural programmes (also with sponsorship), whereas private channels lean more towards entertainment (with naturally some cultural programmes as well). Attempts are made to ensure that public channels transmit their cultural programmes at prime times and all year round, rather than later at night and only in the summer.

A reform of the public broadcasting in 2008-2009, conducted by President Sarkozy, appeared to be quite controversial, in particular on two points:

  • direct appointment of the directors of public broadcasting by the President of the Republic. This measure was deeply criticised with regard to the independence of the public service. The group of experts commissioned by the European Commission to analyse the pluralism of the media in Europe underlined in 2012 that such a decisional concentration "is not a good example for Europe". Following the election of President Holland in 2012, a new reform of public service broadcasting has been announced, with notably a return to the appointment of the directors by the CSA, and the suppression of the intervention of the President of the Republic in the appointment of members of the CSA; and
  • suppression of advertising in the evening on public channels, and compensation of the loss of income with taxes on private operators. Yet the European Commission wants France to suppress these taxes because of a distortion of competition between private and public actors, and a legal process is ongoing. Moreover, actors of the public service denounced the fact that these taxes are insufficient to guarantee a balanced budget. In 2014, the CEO of France Télévisions evoked the re-establishment of advertising in the evening and the Minister Fleur Pellerin indicated in the press that this issue was not an "absolute taboo" and that her main concern is to ensure a continued financing of public broadcasting.

Content diversity and cultural globalisation

In 2001, Hollywood held 80% of the market share of film at international level, and 70% for TV programmes (Toby Miller (and al.), Global Hollywood, London, British Movie Institute, 2001, p.7). In 2011, American films represent 61.4% of the market in the European Union, European movies 28.5% and other countries 1.6% (source European Audiovisual Observatory). In 2014 in France, American movies share 46% of the cinema entrances, 45% are French (DEPS, see chapter 9.1).

In the field of music, after the merging at the end of 2004 of Sony Music Entertainment and BMG Entertainment, and the purchase of EMI Group by Universal Music Group in November 2011, three firms control the major part of the world market of music.

In the publishing field, even though French literary production is successful, among the ten novelists most translated in the world, nine are written originally in the English language. The transatlantic cultural flows are unbalanced and standardisation can be a threat. This issue is important not only for the cultural industries, but also for all creative activities, as standardisation of mass production has negative effects on artistic creation and diversity.

The DEPS published in 2012 the results of three studies on the measure of diversity and its evolution in the publishing, music and cinema industries (collection Culture Études, English version available online, see chapter 9.1). These unprecedented studies bring results and elements of analysis on the relatively recent evolution of the diversity of the works that are produced and consumed in these industries, the existence of long tail effect, or a comparison of the diversity of films in theatres in different European countries. Moreover, these results contribute to the reflections, renewed recently by UNESCO, on the indicators of diversity in the cultural and media domains. A complex question is how to respond to the mass production of the cultural industries while preserving the possibility of distributing cultural and contemporary creativity? Culture and creation are factors of identity, but also of attractiveness. They allow advocating an identity in a standardised world.

At European level, France is actively involved in many initiatives aimed at a better advocacy of the diversity of identities and cultures in a constructive dialogue: the Europeana project of a European digital library; the programme "Heritage of Europe" (aids to surtitling, albums of architects and landscape painters, European bookshops, mutualisation of resources for musical industries); MINERVA project, (Ministerial Network for Valorising Digitisation Activities); MICHAEL project of a multilingual inventory of European cultural heritage, European Museum Information Institute - Distributed Content Framework, groups ESSnet-Culture for European cultural statistics , etc.

Chapter published: 18-05-2017

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