Getting rid of the TV licence, food cheques for the most vulnerable and a firm line on immigration were some of the pledges made by Emmanuel Macron in a debate last night (March 7).
President Macron was speaking at a “debate” event at a cultural centre in Poissy (Yvelines), near Paris, attended by 100 journalists and 200-250 participants.
He added that he would not be taking part in any election debates with other candidates as none of his predecessors has done this.
He said: “I don’t see why I would do differently to Général de Gaulle, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac or Nicolas Sarkozy.”
And while he has faced criticism for this, the president is also said to have scaled down plans for larger presidential election campaign events due to the situation in Ukraine.
Mr Macron presented himself as both “president” and “candidate”, and appeared to shift between roles, answering attendees’ questions on Russia and Ukrainian refugees first, before moving on to his presidential campaign pledges.
Mr Macron attended the event after having spoken to US President Joe Biden, and left ahead of a phone call scheduled with Chinese President Xi Jingping.
He said: “I will be president as much as I must, but candidate as soon as I possibly can.”
‘Four pact’ campaign
He presented his bid for reelection along four major “pacts” saying: “I want four major pacts: a European pact, a pact between generations, a productive pact to move towards full employment, and a Republican pact to share the guidelines of what we must do in terms of immigration or security.
"[As a candidate] I have ambition and I have the will, but I am not interested in retaining responsibilities. I want to be able to fulfil my ambition for the country over the long term.”
Energy bills, TV licence and food cheques
Among the specific pledges made were a reminder of the measures already taken by the government to limit rising energy costs, a desire to introduce food cheques for those who need them, and the suppression of the TV licence.
He said: “We are going to set up the food cheques that, as president, I wish we had [already] set up to fight against food insecurity.”
He reiterated the measures that the government had already taken to limit rising energy costs.
He said: “We are going to make all these measures permanent. The prime minister is in the process of finalising a plan that will also apply to petrol [prices].”
Although real energy prices have soared by more than 54% in recent months, France has capped the cost rise to consumers at 4%.
On the subject of the TV licence (redevance télé in French), Mr Macron said: “We will get rid of remaining [extra] taxes, of which the TV licence is part. It makes sense, with the suppression of the taxe d’habitation, we have to take it to its logical end.”
TV licence in France
In mainland France, the TV licence is €138 annually but some criteria based on age, finances or personal situation can mean you do not have to pay.
It is usually paid alongside your taxe d’habitation, the deadline for which is November 15 or November 20 if you are paying via the impots.gouv.fr portal. The taxe d’habitation is gradually being phased out and 80% of households no longer have to pay, but this does not (yet) apply to TV licence fees.
People with second homes in France are not exempt from taxe d’habitation, and most exceptions (such as age) do not apply to second-home owners.
Licence fees are charged to a household and do not depend on the number of residents.
If you only watch television through a tablet or computer you do not need to pay the fee, as it depends on your having a television. Equally, if you own a television but only use it to watch programmes and films through apps such as Netflix, you still need to pay the redevance télé.
Those who fail to pay their redevance télé on time will see their bill increase by 10%. If you do not have a television, you must notify the tax authorities each year by ticking a box on your tax return.
People who tick the box dishonestly could face a fine of €150 per television.
‘Bugbear in France’
The requirement for households with a television to pay a TV licence in France is a hot topic of debate in the UK too, with some Conservative MPs, including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, saying that the “government must ‘save the BBC from itself’”.
Yet, opponents state that the BBC should continue to receive the fee and should not be subject to government control or dismantling.
Indeed, on this particular point, Mr Macron is in the unusual position of aligning with far-right candidates Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, who have also pledged to get rid of the fee, as has centre-right runner Valérie Pécresse.
The latter has also said that there “should be no taboo" over the privatisation of state broadcasters.