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France’s content regime under threat from Google and Al Jazeera, says Canal Plus chief

The entry into TV of global internet companies including Google-YouTube and Qatari state-funded broadcaster Al Jazeera present a threat to existing players and the French system of supporting content creation, according to Canal Plus president Bertrand Meheut.

Writing in Le Monde, Meheut said that “new offers appearing where the mode of distribution escapes any regulatory or fiscal constraint”.

Meheut said that Apple had set up the European iTunes HQ in Luxembourg and Google had chosen Ireland as its European development centre for Europe because of the tax benefits those locations brought. The entry of such groups into video distribution meant that they escaped the obligations to which French companies were bound by law.

Meheut said that the entry of Al Jazeera into broadcasting in France via the acquisition of sports rights represented another destabilising source of competition. Al Jazeera, he said, was supported by a state with unlimited resources and operated under a different logic than companies constrained by the need to make a profit. He said the result would be that, in the short term, sport would disappear from free-to-air channels, while pay TV players would have to bid more for rights, to the detriment of other forms of content, including movies and drama.

Meheut said it was important that competition rules took account of the specific needs of cultural industries, which contributed to content creation in France. He said that Canal Plus was proud to play its role in supporting content, but that it was up to the national authorities to define rules that applied to all players in the market.

Meheut said that Canal Plus invested €600 million annually in domestic content creation and was the leading supporter of French cinema. He said Canal Plus also invested €550 million in sport.