Broadcasting bill passed – finally

After 850 opposition amendments against “Berlusconisation” of media, new law voted through.

18 December 2008

THE controversial broadcasting bill has been passed by the National Assembly.

The bill, which has been subject to delaying tactics by the opposition who fielded around 850 amendments leading to 80 hours of debate and delays to the rest of the government’s programme.

The proposals, which have led to strikes by public radio and television staff, will go to the Senate for final approval from January 7.

Opponents have criticised it as harmful to the independence of public broadcasting, but President Sarkozy says it will improve programme quality.

One of the biggest changes in the bill – the ending of advertising on state channels after 20.00 – is however now a mere formality, after the president came to an agreement directly with France Télévisions. There will be no prime-time advertising from January 5 on the four national channels and after 2011 none at any time of day.

A recent CSA survey showed that a large majority was in favour of the advertising ban, however the other high-profile measure in the bill – the appointment of the head of France Télévisions by the president instead of by an independent body – is less popular. Three-quarters of those polled thought it was “a bad thing.”

The bill also involves new financing measures, including a linking the cost of the redevance audiovisuelle (TV licence fee) to the cost of living, so that regular increases are built in.

Two new taxes are proposed – one on turnover from TV advertising on private channels and one on the turnover of telecoms firms. France Télévisions would also be organised differently – as one firm rather than involving several subsidiaries.

The reforms were adopted by the National Assembly with 293 votes to 242, with some UMP members joining the opposition parties in opposing it. Socialist Didier Mathus denounced the changes as a “Berlusconisation” of French broadcasting.

Sarkozy’s close relationship with the owner’s of private broadcasting networks such as Martin Bouygues who owns France’s biggest private broadcaster TF1, has come under close scrutiny.

Photo:Afp

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