Right-wing TV news channel CNews becomes most popular in France

Audience figures for CNews - the French version of Fox News in the US and the UK’s GB News - beat mainstream rivals over monthly period for the first time

Billionaire businessman Vincent Bolloré, pictured in 2011; CNews could be described as ‘the French Fox News’
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CNews was the most watched 24/7 cable-news channel in France in May 2024, signalling a growing interest from viewers for far-right perspectives on issues.

The channel – the French version of Fox News in the US – averaged 2.8% of TV viewers, beating previous leader BFMTV, which attracted 2.7%.

CNews averaged 2.3% in 2023 and is growing in popularity among viewers aged over 65 in particular. 

BFMTV had an average viewership of 2.6% in 2023, showing its audience share is growing even if it was beaten in May 2024.

Who is behind CNews?

Such an audience crowns the enterprise of its owner, 71-year-old French business mogul Vincent Bolloré, who has been going on a frenzied buy-out of French media since 2012 to consolidate his €10 billion empire. 

Over 10 years, Mr Bolloré acquired 24/7 cable-news channel I-Télé - which he renamed CNews - and every of one Canal Plus’ channels (mainly C8), radio station Europe 1 in 2021, weekly newspaper Paris Match in 2021 and Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) six months ago.

“What we are witnessing with Mr Bolloré is the creation of a far-right media empire,” said Isabelle Roberts, a French journalist at Les Jours newspaper who has covered Mr Bolloré’s ventures in the media industry since 2016.

Read more: Who owns France’s media and what are their political leanings?

Commentators from Mr Bolloré’s other media outlets

Watching CNews nowadays is pretty much the same experience as watching GB News or Fox News

CNews often piggybacks on news published by print media from Mr Bolloré’s portfolio and its shows serve as platforms for comments, opinions and rants – as early as 09:00 – by many of the most visible figures of the conservative right and far-right spheres.

Its flagship programme is ‘L’Heure des Pros’, a play-on-words with its anchor Pascal Praud, that is broadcast twice a day (in the morning and evening) and consists of experts giving their opinion on selected issues.

The issues discussed replicate the French far-right catalogue and experts or journalists featured are often employees of companies owned by Mr Bolloré, deliberately using revolving-door tactics to echo-chamber issues.

For instance, Geoffroy Lejeune, the editor-in-chief of the JDD, is often asked to comment on L’Heure des Pros while Mr Praud holds a weekly column in the JDD.

Only news channel to be fined for inciting hatred

“Vincent Bolloré shares the values of the far right. He nurtures the fantasy of an eternal France that needs to be defended against the fear of foreigners,” said Ms Roberts.

These fears include immigration, hatred of the far left, the crumbling of the Western world, and the defence of traditional Catholic values, in talks sometimes bordering racism, misogyny and tinged with anti-immigration slants.

It is the only news channel to have been fined (€200,000) by the CSA, the French audiovisual regulatory body, on charges of inciting hatred and violence in 2021 after Eric Zemmour – then one of the channel’s columnists – called migrants “thieves” and “assassins”. 

Read more: French election candidate Eric Zemmour found guilty of hate speech

BFMTV failed to fight back

It, however, has not stopped its continued rise and even convinced owners of BFMTV to take the same slippery slope by trying to contain its progress.

The channel hired Laurent Ruquier in November, one of the most well-known anchors of French TV shows over the last 30 years, to nibble away at Mr Praud’s audience on his evening show. 

He left five weeks later, having attracted 244,000 viewers against the 820,000 of Mr Praud, according to figures cited by Le Parisien

Audience also growing on Bolloré-owned radio

Mr Praud has not only been successful on CNews – since he was hired last August by Europe 1 to anchor ‘Pascal Praud et vous’ from 11:00 to 13:00, his show gained 84,000 listeners in its time slot, according to recent audience figures. 

This halted a ten-year-long downward spiral the radio show was stuck in, gaining 81,000 listeners in 2023 for a total of 2.1 million listeners.

It remains, however, only the ninth most-listened to radio show in France.