CNews exit, new candidate channels… What should we expect from the Arcom hearings for the allocation of 15 DTT broadcast frequencies?

CNews exit, new candidate channels… What should we expect from the Arcom hearings for the allocation of 15 DTT broadcast frequencies?
CNews exit, new candidate channels… What should we expect from the Arcom hearings for the allocation of 15 DTT broadcast frequencies?

Will television in 2025 have the same face as today? Arcom, the audiovisual policeman, is putting fifteen digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting channels back into play, whose authorizations expire in 2025. If no channel plans to hand over the airwaves, they will have to convince in the face of competing projects.

The audiovisual policeman will examine the candidates’ applications starting Monday, July 8. Which channels’ agreements are expiring? How will the auditions take place? Which channels are particularly scrutinized? - takes stock of the process.

Fifteen frequencies, twenty-five candidates

Fifteen frequencies are being put back into play, Arcom explains. These are those of the channels Canal+, C8, CNews, CStar, Canal+ Cinéma, Canal+ Sport and Planète+ (Canal+ group), TMC, TFX and LCI (TF1 group), W9, Gulli and Paris Première (M6 group), BFMTV (sold to Rodolphe Saadé’s CMA CGM group) and NRJ12 (NRJ group).

The owners of these channels are all candidates to retain the right to use their channel, but they will be competing with ten additional projects. The TF1 group, in addition to the three frequencies it wishes to retain, is defending two new projects on Monday, for the moment called La Chaîne Histoire and Humour TV.

Potential new entrants will also be grilled. The magazine L’Express will defend, on July 15, L’Express TV, a project whose main axes are: “infotainment around a daily talk show”, “contemporary history” et “Sciences”according to a press release. The Ouest-France group, which owns the regional daily of the same name, will defend OF TV on July 16, a channel that “will tell the story of what the French are experiencing and will take a look that is both entertaining and rooted in reality, ‘from the commune to the world'”described the company’s board of directors in the daily newspaper.

The radical left-wing web TV Le Média will also apply, and will be interviewed on Friday, July 12. It has launched a crowdfunding campaign accompanied by a manifesto on its site to defend its project“a TV channel on the side of the people and not of the powers of money” et “who assumes his commitment to the left”.

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, owner of Casino and the CMI France press group (Marianne, Elle…), will present its RéelsTV project on July 16. The latest projects will be BATV, from the Christian association Je suis, OP TV from the company Ombre première (already at the origin of an overseas music channel on boxes), and Mieux, from the company Média Santé Info TV.

Pluralism, economic viability… Criteria to be respected

The State provides private actors with authorizations to broadcast on radio frequencies through Arcom. After having their application file validated, candidates for the takeover of a frequency appear before the authority during public hearings.

These will begin on July 8 at 9 a.m., with representatives from Guilli, until the passage of Ombre Première, on July 17 at 9 a.m. During these orals, Arcom will question the representatives of the channels and “will take in particular taking into account the pluralism of information and socio-cultural currents of expression, the interest for the public or even the commitment of the application in terms of support for creation, its contribution and the measures taken in societal matters and protection of the public”the authority specifies in its press release.

Arcom is also studying the viability of the project from a technical and economic point of view, specifies the website Vie-publique.fr. Broadcasting authorizations will be issued “by the end of 2024”for a maximum period of ten years. This authorization is not a blank check: if the channels breach their obligations, Arcom can enter into dialogue with its publisher, before initiating a gradual procedure that could lead to financial sanctions or even the unilateral withdrawal of the authorization to broadcast on the frequency.

C8 and CNews channels in the sights

Among all the DTT channels put back into play, two should particularly attract attention: those of C8 and CNews, which occupy the eighth and sixteenth channels respectively. The two channels belonging to the conservative billionaire Vincent Bolloré have been in the sights of Arcom for several years, which, between 2012 and mid-June, issued at least 44 warnings, formal notices and fines against the two channels, according to a count by the newspaper The world.

C8, whose managers will be questioned on July 9, has received a barrage of sanctions due to the regular excesses of its star host, Cyril Hanouna, and his columnists. The channel was notably fined 500,000 euros in July 2023 for broadcasting a conspiracy theory about “adrenochrome”, and a penalty of 50,000 euros in June for presenting disabled people as drug addicts. And a record penalty of 3.5 million euros after Cyril Hanouna insulted LFI MP Louis Boyard in November 2022.

CNews is regularly accused of promoting far-right views. It too has been fined several times, for example for letting its columnist Eric Zemmour say that unaccompanied minors are “thieves”of the “assassins” and some “rapists” – remarks which earned the far-right polemicist a conviction, who has appealed.

Their case largely occupied the debates of the parliamentary commission of inquiry on DTT frequencies at the beginning of the year. Its rapporteur, Aurélien Saintoul (LFI), “would not understand how the CNews and C8 channels could see their broadcasting licenses renewed as they stand”he wrote in his final report, published in mid-May, but rejected by a majority of members of the commission.

Paris MP Aymeric Caron (LFI) also called for the CNews broadcast channel not to be renewed. “It is not for ideological reasons, because it is a far-right channel, but for legal reasons, because the channel does not respect its conventional obligations”he justified on X, in particular freedom of expression, “by concentrating the speeches around a very precise and very particular ideology”.

“We have very little doubt about our renewal since we meet all the criteria”assured Serge Nedjar, general director of CNews, to AFP at the beginning of June. “A publisher is completely free to choose the themes he wants to cover and the way he covers them, he is free to choose the speakers he wants to invite onto his sets”Roch-Olivier Maistre, the president of Arcom, had estimated on France Inter. While recalling that“We cannot, within the legal framework in force in France, have an opinion channel (…), a media which only develops one school of thought”.

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