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French government mixes messages on future of TV licence

Françoise Nyssen

French culture minister Françoise Nyssen used an appearance at the La Rochelle fiction festival to hold out the prospect of a reform of the country’s TV licensing to detach the principle of payment from physical possession of a TV, before being publicly contradicted by the prime minister.

Nyssen said at La Rochelle that a “universal and automatic” fee was the end goal., detached from owning a TV.

However, the culture minister’s tentative attempts to start a discussion about the future of the fee brought a swift response from prime minister Edouard Philippe whose office was quoted by BFMTV to the effect that the topic was not being studied.

Public broadcast organisations in France that rely on the licence fee are keen to see change as consumer habits pivot away from TV viewing towards multiscreen content consumption.

A report compiled by French parliamentarians earlier this year ruled out an extended tax on computers as likely to fail to keep up with the proliferation of devices on which video could be viewed, and suggested that a universal payment made more sense.

The prime minister’s office was cited by BFMTV as saying that the government did not want to raise taxed but rather had an ambition to lower them.

Public accounts minister Gérald Darmanin meanwhile said that any consideration of how to finance public service media should take place after a reform of its organisation was decided.