Financing of France Télévisions: private channels are considering seizing Brussels
The beautiful idyll of recent years is no more. Between the private channels and the public service, war has been declared for a fortnight. Last p of arms: according to…
The beautiful idyll of recent years is no more. Between the private channels and the public service, war has been declared for a fortnight.
Last p of arms: according to our information, the ociation of Private Channels (ACP) which brings together TF1, M6, Canal + and Altice (BFMTV, etc.), is currently looking to see if there is not a legal angle to dig in the field of European competition law. The idea would be to check whether the public manna from which France TV benefits – the amount and the supervision of expenditure – disturbs the sector or not.
Towards legal proceedings?
This echoes lawsuits by private channels before the European institutions at the end of the 2000s, after the removal of evening advertising but who ultimately had no not call into question public funding . “But times have changed since then,” says one connoisseur. However, it is difficult to predict at this stage whether the ACP will go as far as effective prosecution.
At the same time, TF1 stepped up to the plate this week to defend Newen , its audiovisual production subsidiary. La Une accuses France Télévisions of “retaliation” by drying up its order of programs. What FTV disputes.
The hostilities began with a letter, on May 10, from the ACP denouncing several competitive advantages of France Télévisions.
According to TF1, the day after this letter was sent to the Prime Minister, France Télévisions would have informed Newen of the “removal of some of his orders”. False, ures the public group for its part: FTV has even confirmed to Newen the start of production of several successful series (“Candre”, “Le Voyageur”, “La Doc et le Veto”).
Brawl around Newen
The moment is delicate. France Télévisions like Radio France are in the process of negotiate their contracts of objectives and means with the State- shareholder. Certainly, the ACP – chaired by Rodolphe Belmer, the boss of TF1 – does not want to reduce the level of public funding at all. But, to avoid distortions of competition, the ACP believes that public television should in particular be subject to obligations per channel, as is the case for the private sector.
Above all, they denounce the “surprisingly commercial” programming of France 2 with an under-exposure of public service missions (documentaries, live shows, etc.). They also challenge the share of advertising revenue made after 8 p.m., despite a ban.
The counterattack was quick. The boss of France Télévisions has prepared a response for the public authorities, and rose up in “Le Figaro” about what she considers a “characterised aggression” and “terribly 20th century”. She repeated what she has been saying for years: the competition is not between France 2, TF1 or M6 but with international platforms like YouTube and Netflix.
The Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak , took up the defense of France Télévisions, ensuring that it respected its public service missions, while saying that it was open to reviewing the obligations channel by channel. As for Arcom, in April the policeman of the audio-visual one had satisfecit on the execution of the schedule of conditions of France Télévisions.
Support for TF1-M6 merger
The honeymoon between private and public channels probably ended in the wake of the abandonment of the merger TF1-M6, at the end of the summer.“Over the past few years, France Télévisions has rather been in solidarity with the private channels, calling for a merger. The group formed a united front on the media timeline THE DTT decree etc., comments a good connoisseur of the public. There have been conflicts in the past, but the current violence and abundance of attacks is untenable. They should probably be linked to TF1 audiences…”.
The current war is also indicative of a relationship that has been tumultuous for years. One of the episodes was the takeover by Newen by TF1, end of 2015 . After the announcement of the purchase of the company behind “Plus Belle la vie”, France Télévisions stops all developments and projects with Newen, worrying about the consequences of one of its major suppliers belonging to its direct competitor. It will be several months before things normalize.
Inclinations of privatization
But it is the issue of advertising that has probably caused the most ink to flow. Shortly after her arrival at the helm of France Télévisions, in the summer of 2015, Delphine Ernotte Cunci request “cheese and dessert” referring to the return of advertising after 8 p.m.
The private channels, supported by radio stations and press leaders, are rising immediately on the spot, by writing to Manuel Valls, then Prime Minister, to express their “serious concerns”. This option will not be retained but Delphine Ernotte quickly learns that the “environment is not tender”, comments a relative.
Either way, this war risks weakening the entire ecosystem. The attacks against the public service could fuel the desire for privatization that some have in Bercy or so of the National Rally . “However, if France 2 was bought by Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé or a foreigner, I’m not sure that would play into the hands of the private channels”, observes a good connoisseur.