the merger desired by Dati is on track

the merger desired by Dati is on track
the merger desired by Dati is on track
The headquarters of Radio France, February 3, 2023 in Paris (Ludovic MARIN)

A holding company to oversee France Télévisions and Radio France in 2025, then their merger in 2026: wanted by Rachida Dati but fought by the unions, the big bang of public broadcasting begins its legislative journey in committee at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

A recurring subject since the election of President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron in 2017, this major reform took shape at lightning speed, while no one expected it just six months ago.

As soon as she took office in January, the Minister of Culture said she wanted to “bring together the forces” of public broadcasting by going further than the current mergers between France Télévisions and Radio France.

However, she remained vague, without specifying whether she would settle for a holding company or whether she wanted to completely merge public broadcasting into a single company. An even more flammable hypothesis for an already worried sector.

With all her political weight, Rachida Dati finally stepped on the accelerator: she herself will come to defend in committee the merger from 2026 of Radio France, France Télévisions, France Médias Monde (RFI, France 24) and Ina ( National Audiovisual Institute).

The key proposal will not be put to a vote until late Tuesday evening or Wednesday afternoon.

– Strike –

Before the merger, public broadcasting would go through a transitional stage in 2025, under a holding regime.

The giant company would have a budget of four billion euros and the reform would affect 16,000 employees.

For this first legislative stage, some 260 amendments are on the agenda of parliamentarians in the Cultural Affairs Committee until Wednesday. Then, the text must, in principle, undergo first reading in the hemicycle of the Palais Bourbon on May 23 and 24, barring legislative traffic jam.

The Radio France unions have already called a strike for these two days.

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To guarantee the adoption of the reform, the minister, from the Les Républicains (LR) party, took up a bill already adopted in June 2023 by the Senate, dominated by the right. This text from Senator Laurent Lafon (Centrist Union) provides for the creation of a simple holding company called France Médias.

At the Assembly, the rapporteurs are Fabienne Colboc (Renaissance) and Jean-Jacques Gaultier (LR), a duo capable of gathering a majority of votes.

The left, for its part, is up against the very project of holding company.

“Its implementation would be the culmination of a process of denigration and financial weakening of public broadcasting carried out methodically since the arrival of Emmanuel Macron to power”, consider the deputies of La France insoumise (LFI).

– An assessment before Paris? –

The Head of State had advocated a rapprochement in 2017, drawing a harsh assessment of the current public broadcasting sector. One of Ms. Dati’s predecessors, Franck Riester, had carried out a holding project in 2019, but the Covid-19 crisis had stopped it.

Why this reform now? The minister assures that it is essential in the face of competition from international platforms and that it must be done before the end of the mandate of the president of France Télévisions, Delphine Ernotte Cunci, in 2025.

But, according to an actor in the audiovisual sector, it is also a way for her to have “an assessment” of Culture before running for mayor of Paris in 2026.

To try to reassure on a financial level, the Renaissance deputy Quentin Bataillon prepared, in parallel with the elected LR Jean-Jacques Gaultier, a bill in order to establish a lasting direction from the State budget for the benefit of sector (“levy on revenue”), on the model of community financing.

Since the abolition of the fee in 2022, public broadcasting has been financed by a fraction of VAT, according to a provisional mechanism.

To move quickly and bring her project to fruition in the summer or early fall, Ms. Dati plans to refocus the senatorial text on governance issues.

Another government amendment agitates private actors: it plans to lift the ceiling on advertising revenue for public broadcasting. “It’s a financing issue,” MP Bataillon said on Tuesday on France 2. However, there will be no questioning of the ban on advertising on France Télé after 8:00 p.m.

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