French Senate report calls for unification of public service media

French senators tasked with reporting on the future of public service media in the country in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to abolish the licence fee have revived the idea of creating a unified public service broadcaster on the model of the BBC.

Co-rapporteurs Roger Karoutchi, the Senate vice-president, and Jean-Raymond Hugonet, from the opposition right-wing Les Républicains party, condemned the lack of any proposals on reform of public service media from the government. In a riposte to Macron’s justification for ending the licence fee as a measure to counter the rising cost of living, they commented that “the reform of the finance of public service media cannot be reduced to a simple measure regarding the purchasing power of the French people”.

Arguing that instead of reflections and proposals the government had delivered “an absolute void”, Karoutchi and Hugonet said there was an urgent need for “a real strategic project”.

They called for the accelerated unification of France Télévisions, Radio France, France Médias Monde and the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA), going beyond the idea of a common holding organisation raised by the Senate seven years ago.

The pair called for legislation to be enacted as early as next year to bring about the creation of a new grouping, France Médias, to be created by 2025, when the current mandate of France Télévisions president Delphine Ernotte ends.

Karoutchi and Hugonet also called for the creation of a single public service news organsiation across radio and public service TV, which they argue would “end duplication and reinforce expertise”, providing coverage of local, national and international news.

The report also called for the creation of a single regional media groupling combining France 3 and France Bleu called France Médias Régions.

Karoutchi and Hugonet also called for a unified public service media digital strategy to enable France to catch up on other countries.

With finance to be come from the government budget rather than a licence fee under current proposals, the Senate has called for an independent commission be give charge of evaluating the annual requirements and setting multi-year budgets.

The new Autorité Supérieure de l’Audiovisuel (ASAP) would be headed by a judicial official from the Cour des Comptes, France’s national audit organisation, with four members appointed by the Senate and the National Assembly.

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