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France/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.7 Mass media

Public authorities are involved at three levels:

  • regulation of the overall sector via the allocation of frequencies by the French broadcasting authority: the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA, see chapter 4.2.6);
  • funding of public television (via licence fees) and licensing guidelines;
  • regulatory measures: quotas on the music content of radio broadcasts and the programming of films on television; and
  • regulation of the press sector and support to the press companies in their actions of modernisation and development.

Freedom of expression

  • Law of 29 July 1881 on the Liberty of the Press: foundational legal statement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, inspired by article 11 of the Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of 26 August 1789: "The free communication of ideas and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Any citizen may therefore speak, write and publish freely, except what is tantamount to the abuse of this liberty in the cases determined by Law."

Protection of sources

  • Code of criminal procedure: articles 56-1, 56-2, 60-1, 100-5, 326 and 437.

Children and youth publications

  • Law n°49-956 of 16 July 1949 on publications aimed at youth.

Press agencies

  • Ordinance n°45-2646 of 2 November 1945 regulating press agencies.


  • Law n°47-585 of 2 April 1947 relative to the statute on newspapers and periodicals' distribution and delivery companies.

Aids to the press

  • Post and Electronic Communications Code: articles L.2, L.4, D.18 and following, R.1-1-17 and R.1-1-26;
  • General Tax Code: articles 39 bis A, 81, 298-7 to 298-13;
  • Annex III to the General Tax Code: articles 72, 73 and 73-0 A;
  • Decree n°98-109 of 6 November 1998 on the support fund for press delivery;
  • Decree n°2004-1312 of 26 November 2004 on the support fund for regional and local weekly press, modified by decree n°2010-1214 of 13 October 2010;
  • Decree n°2002-629 of 25 April 2002 creating aid for the daily distribution of the national political and general information press;
  • Decree n°86-616 of 12 March 1986 creating aid for the national political and general information dailies that have few advertising resources, modified by decree n°2008-1192 of 17 November 2008;
  • Decree n°2012-484 of 13 April 2012 relative to the reform of the aids to the press, and to the strategic fund for press development (in particular, digital transition)
  • Decree n° 2015-1440 of 6 November 2015 relative to the State support to press pluralism

Aids to the press were reformed in 2016 to reinforce press pluralism, encourage the creation of new media and support innovation. The decree n° 2016-1161 of 26 August 2016 plans:

  • the creation of a Fund for emergence and innovation in the press: creation of new press companies for printed and online press, call for projects to favour innovative schemes (incubators, research programmes, consultancy and training)
  • the enlargement of the beneficiaries of the Strategic Fund for press development, notably to online knowledge press and to all the general and political information press
  • the generalisation of the aids to the local press


  • Labour Code: articles L.7111-1 and following, R. 7111-1 and following;
  • Social Security Code: articles L.311-2 and L.311-3, articles L.382-1 and following; and
  • Intellectual Property Code: articles L.121-8 and L.132-35 and L.132-45.

Audiovisual and broadcasting

  • Law n° 86-1067 of 30 September 1986 on the liberty of communication, called the "Léotard Act", last modified on 3 February 2012: legal framework of the communication services (functioning and missions of the Audiovisual High Council, recognition of free radio stations, deregulation of the sector, allocation of frequencies, communication services online, responsibilities and identification of web providers, right of reply, press offences, etc.);
  • European Convention on Transfrontier Television of 5 May 1989, signed by France on 12 February 1991;
  • Decree n° 95-110 of 2 February 1995 modified, relative to State support to the audiovisual programmes industry;
  • Law n° 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 called the "Confidence in digital economy Act": French Internet Law that transposes European directive 2000/31/CE of 8 June 2000 on electronic commerce and some provisions of the European directive of 12 July 2002 on privacy and electronic communications; and
  • European directive 2007/65/EC of 11 December 2007 amending Council Directive 89/552/EC on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities ("Audiovisual media services" Directive).

Chapter published: 18-05-2017

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