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Cablegate: Upcoming Changes in French International Media Identity

VZCZCXRO7503
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #1545/01 2240816
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110816Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4069
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001545

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/PPD, EUR/WE, INR, R

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO OPRC FR
SUBJECT: UPCOMING CHANGES IN FRENCH INTERNATIONAL MEDIA IDENTITY

REF: 07 Paris 3414

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Changes President Sarkozy has set in motion to revitalize
the public television industry will likely have a significant impact
on France's international media presence. Reforms will consolidate
France's internationally broadcast public networks under a new
holding company modeled after the BBC. An additional reform
associated with the industry makeover would be the elimination of
public funding for English- and Arabic-language programming on the
international news channel France24, which would mark a new
direction for the network and would change its audience
considerably. President Sarkozy laid out reform plans in January of
this year, though a firm timeline for the consolidation has not yet
been set. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ------
FRANCE MONDE: CREATION OF A NEW MEDIA CONGLOMERATE
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (U) The structural reforms will bring together France24, TV5
Monde and Radio France International under a holding company to
centralize general management and share resources. President
Sarkozy announced the plan at a January 8 press conference, during
which he referred to the proposed conglomerate as "France Monde."
President Sarkozy hopes to rejuvenate public television in France
with the reforms and to create an internationally competitive media
network. An Elysee transcript of the President's comments at the
press conference quotes, "Between Al-Jazeera, which offers an Arab
point of view, and CNN, which offers an Anglo-Saxon point of view,
we would like to carry a French point of view." The President noted
that each of the networks set to join France Monde would maintain a
separate identity but would share administrative resources.
According to a February 24 article in The New York Times, President
Sarkozy has named the current president of France24, Alain de
Pouzilhac, to oversee the merger. Reftel discusses the potential
economic savings such a consolidation would gain for the French
government.

-------------------------------------------
ELIMINATION OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAMMING
-------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) France24 was created in 2006 to launch the French media
into the international scene and was modeled after CNN and BBC
World. The network began with French and English programming and
later introduced programs in Arabic; it is broadcast across Europe,
in Africa, in parts of Asia and in several U.S. locations.
President Sarkozy's plan to eliminate public funding for English and
Arabic programs highlights a new goal for the network: to adopt a
distinctly Francophone identity. Former President Jacques Chirac
proposed the creation of France24 during his Presidency and
supported English-language programming to make the network more
widely accessible; Sarkozy prefers a different approach. At the
press conference, he told reporters, "I am not willing to finance a
channel that does not speak French." Eliminating foreign-language
programming will significantly alter audience patterns for the
network.

------------------
UNCERTAIN TIMELINE
------------------

4. (U) The plan for France Monde was originally proposed in late
2007 by Georges-Marc Benamou, the President's advisor on culture and
audiovisual media. At that time, financial paper La Tribune
reported that the government would establish France Monde over the
next three years. In the January press conference, President
Sarkozy indicated that the project would begin "as soon as possible,
in any case during this year." Specific dates for implementation of
the reforms have not yet been announced.

--------------------------------------------- -----
COMMENT: SARKOZY LOOKING TO FRANCE'S IMAGE ABROAD
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) President Sarkozy's changes to France's international media
posture are in line with other reforms he has set in motion to
improve efficiency and revitalize the French presence worldwide.
The reforms are part of a push for France to take a more active role
on the international stage and combat "Anglophone domination" in the
media. Though the print press has reported criticism from
shareholders in France24 and TV5 Monde as well as from the workers'
unions at the affected networks, opposition to the reform does not
appear to have threatened its progress. We expect to see further

PARIS 00001545 002 OF 002


evolution of the France Monde conglomeration throughout Sarkozy's
presidency.
STAPLETON

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