French government mulls expansion of free DTT offering

The French government wants to authorise the launch of six new channels on the country’s digital-terrestrial TV platform, according to local reports.

A meeting of ministers is expected this week to take a firm decision. According to Le Figaro newspaper, the government is minded to ask regulator the CSA to launch an appeal for bids to launch new channels quickly.

Leading commercial players TF1, M6 and Canal Plus would then be awarded the so-called ‘bonus’ channels promised to them following switchover, with TF1 launching TV Breizh, M6 launching M6 Famille and Canal Plus launching its prososed free-to-air channel Canal 20 on the platform. Other likely contenders for slots include NRJ for its Chérie HD channel and NextradioTV for RMC Sport. Financial daily Les Echos reported that the final channel could be awarded to a new entrat such as the Amaury Group’s L’Equipe TV.

In the face of the recommendation of CSA president Michel Boyon in his recent report that new channels should be transmitted using the DVB-T2 standard (which would require viewers to invest in new consumer premises equipment), the new plan would mean additional channel being launched using the current DVB-T technology.

The award of bonus channels is dependent on the outcome of a ruling by the European Commission, which has expressed strong reservations about the proposal.