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Cablegate: Sarkozy's Shake-Up of French Public Broadcasting

VZCZCXRO9852
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #3414/01 2261525
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141525Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9500
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1875
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0476

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003414

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO OPRC FR
SUBJECT: SARKOZY'S SHAKE-UP OF FRENCH PUBLIC BROADCASTING

PARIS 00003414 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) French public radio and television, long a stable and
dominant force in the French media scene, looks set to make some
changes in the coming year. We expect these changes will leave it
with a leaner management structure and with at least some
overlapping functions eliminated in an effort to "right-size" French
public electronic media. President Sarkozy's early August mission
letter to Minister of culture Albanel set out the broad issues, but
the details of any changes have yet to emerge, and are unlikely to
be clear before late fall. End Summary.

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SARKOZY'S OPTIONS FOR CHANGE -- WHERE'S THE MONEY?
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) In his mission letter to the Minister of Culture, President
Sarkozy said that he would like "a more modern public television
with a stronger identity, enhanced by a wide range of more creative
and audacious cultural offerings." At the heart of any proposed
changes, however, lies the issue of public television financing. In
an August 3 interview on BFM radio, France Television CEO Patrick de
Carolis suggested two possible sources for increased funding:
either raising the household license fee (currently 116 euros per
year per household); or adding commercial breaks in the evening.
(Note: De Carolis pointed out that the BBC charges nearly twice as
much for licensing fees and claimed that an extra commercial break
in the evening could bring in roughly 20 billion euros in additional
revenue per year. End Note.) A poll published August 13 in Le
Parisien found that 86 percent of the public were opposed to an
increase in the licensing fee, while only 53 percent were opposed to
an increase in commercial breaks -- and 45 percent (mostly the
under-40 crowd) actually supported additional commercials. A senior
editor from one of the public television channels told us, however,
that he believed adding more commercial breaks would no longer fit
the image of "public service."

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RIGHT-SIZING PUBLIC TELEVISION?
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) France Televisions includes the five national television
channels (France2, France3, France4, France5 and FranceO) as well as
the satellite network Reseau France Outre-Mer (RFO). In addition to
France Televisions, the public audiovisual sector includes TV5
Monde, France 24 (the French public equivalent of CNN, which
broadcasts in French, English and Arabic) and Radio France
International (RFI, the French equivalent of Voice of America). The
public media sector thus includes considerable overlap, and the
three major proposals for "right-sizing" the sector focus on
exploiting potential cost-savings. One option would be to set up a
holding company that would run TV5 Monde, France 24 and RFI; this
option currently appears the simplest to implement and the least
likely to run into serious political opposition. The second option
would be to appoint a common president for all of the various
entities without reorganizing them into a holding company (an option
journalists, including well-plugged-in Le Figaro editorialists,
believe that the MFA favors). The third option would be a
straightforward merger between France 24 and TV5 Monde -- although
this option would clearly save the most money, staff at both TV5
Monde and France 24 strongly oppose this idea.

4. (SBU) Any changes in the French public television system will
come later in the year. The Minister of Culture will present a
formal plan to the National Assembly no earlier than October, with a
vote anticipated by the end of 2007. Opposition politicians are
already criticizing possible changes as a means for President
Sarkozy to "tighten his grip on the media," pointing out that he
already enjoys exceptionally close ties to, among others, France
Televisions CEO Patrick de Carolis, TV5 Monde CEO Jacques Bonnemain
and Radio France CEO Jean-Paul Cluzel.

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COMMENT: CHANGE "INEVITABLE"
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) Despite the absence of agreement about the future face of
public television, Sarkozy has clearly set the reform process in
motion and no one, however wedded to the status quo, doubts that he
will succeed in making changes. While some of the staff of the
various entities have spoken out against reform, most senior players
are discussing the "how" of change, not disputing whether or why it
will take place. As the Senior Editor at France 24 told us, RFI and
France 24 already share correspondents. It's clear that Sarkozy and

PARIS 00003414 002.2 OF 002


his government could gain considerable savings by streamlining the
public media system -- and it's clear that journalists and the
French public expect Sarkozy to get his way in his right-sizing
plans.
PEKALA

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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