MPs validate the creation of a “French-style BBC”

MPs validate the creation of a “French-style BBC”
MPs validate the creation of a “French-style BBC”

A real earthquake in the world of public broadcasting. MPs approved on Tuesday a merger of France Télévisions and Radio France in 2026. After a “intermediate phase” under a holding regime in 2025, “ purpose » of this reform is “ the unique business », bringing together France Télévisions, Radio France, France Médias Monde (RFI, France 24) and the INA (National Audiovisual Institute) on January 1, 2026, recalled Rachida Dati, Minister of Culture. The key amendment was adopted by 30 votes for, 18 against, those of the left and the MoDem. The ally of the presidential majority calls not to go “ too far too fast “.

The subject is ripe », pleads for her part Rachida Dati. According to her, public broadcasting has “ undeniable strengths ” but today ” scattered “, which exposes it to a ” risk of weakening » in the face of competition from international platforms like Netflix.

As soon as she took office in January, the minister said she wanted “ gather strength » of public broadcasting by going further than the current mergers between France Télévisions and Radio France. The deputies of the Cultural Affairs Committee, however, excluded France Médias Monde (FMM) from the future holding company, in a close vote. “ FMM does not at all meet the same objectives and the same challenges », argued Martine Froger (Liot group). However, parliamentarians could come back to this provision later.

Radio France unions call for strike

The text, validated overnight in committee, must undergo first reading in the hemicycle on May 23 and 24, barring a legislative logjam which would push it back to June 24 or even September. Opposed to the project, the Radio France unions have already called a strike for two days in May.

For his part, in a recent interview given to The gallerySibyle Veil, CEO of Radio France, explained that she was not in favor of a major merger: “ A merger of public broadcasting would weaken radio. And now is not the time to weaken the audio when we see the ravages of too many screens on public health in general and the well-being of young people in particular! Not to mention that a merger that consumes a lot of managerial time and energy could result in a large bureaucratic entity. »

To guarantee adoption, the minister, from the Les Républicains (LR) party, adopted a text adopted in June 2023 in the Senate, dominated by the right. Led by Laurent Lafon (Centrist Union), it provides for the creation of a simple holding company called France Médias. “ All property, rights and obligations » of these companies « are transferred to the company France Médias » with effect from January 1, 2026, details the key government amendment of around twenty pages, tabled identically by the deputies Renaissance and Horizons, members of the presidential majority.

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Superpowerful, “ the CEO of the company France Médias is appointed for five years by Arcom », the audiovisual regulatory authority, “ under a transparent, open, effective and non-discriminatory procedure », Provides another government amendment. “ This reform of public broadcasting should make it possible to offer a richer offer, better highlighted on all broadcast channels so that it can be addressed to all French people. », It is explained in particular. The giant company would have a budget of four billion euros and the reform would affect 16,000 employees.

Tuesday, LR deputy Maxime Minot demonstrated “ the support » from his group to the project and its “ ambition. » The RN group is also in favor. The left, for its part, is up against the reform. It is ” the culmination of denigration and weakening” public service at work since Emmanuel Macron came to power, said the rebellious Ségolène Amiot. The government is moving forward blindly » with a policy « with wet finger » launched the socialist Iñaki Echaniz. “ It’s not the return of ORTF that will allow us to compete with Netflix », added ecologist Sophie Taillé-Polian.

The thorny subject of advertising

The Head of State had advocated a rapprochement in 2017 by drawing up a harsh observation on public broadcasting. Franck Riester, predecessor of Rachida Dati, carried out a holding project in 2019 that was stopped by Covid-19. The minister assures that the reform must be carried out as quickly as possible, before the end of the mandate of the president of France Télévisions, Delphine Ernotte Cunci, in 2025. But, according to an actor in the sector, it is also a way for her to ‘to have ” a review » to Culture before running for mayor of Paris in 2026.

To reassure on a financial level, the Renaissance deputy Quentin Bataillon prepared with Jean-Jacques Gaultier (LR) a text establishing a lasting direction from the State budget for the benefit of public audiovisual (” deduction from revenue ), on the model of community financing. Since the removal of the fee in 2022, the sector has been financed by a fraction of VAT, according to a provisional mechanism.

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The sensitive subject of advertising also animated the discussions in committee. A government amendment planning to lift the ceiling on public broadcasting advertising revenue was adopted. But the subject must be reworked, the parliamentarians pledged. Private audiovisual players are fiercely opposed to this removal of the ceiling and LR deputies make it a tough point. “ It’s a race for audiences, and the commercial logic is not that of public service », Warned Jean-Jacques Gaultier.

(With AFP)

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