War of words between France Télévisions and commercial channels heats up

The war of words between France’s commercial channels and public broadcaster France Télévisions has heated up, with the two sides engaging in attack and counter-attack.

Delphine Ernotte

Delphine Ernotte

In a letter to prime minister Elisabeth Borne seen by newspaper Le Figaro, TF1, M6, Canal+ and Altice, which operates commercial channels BFMTV and RMC, reportedly slammed the editorial decisions taken by the pubcaster to air programming that directly competed with commercial offerings on its flagship France 2 channel.

The broadcasters reportedly said that the pubcaster has been allowed to take advantage of an unbalanced regulatory regime to “develop an astonishingly commercial programming line-up on its big channels, in particular France 2” at the expense of programming more in line with its public service remit, which has effectively been ghettoized in smaller channels France 4, Culture Box or the group’s digital platforms, and of taking advantage of lax restrictions on advertising on the pubcaster’s channels to make money from sponsorship during primetime.

France Télévisions’ response

France Télévisions CEO Delphine Ernotte responded in the pages of Le Figaro, accusing the commercial broadcasters of attacking the public broadcasters “for being popular”.

“We are effectively popular and that’s a point of pride. But beyond attracting an audience, our objective is above all to satisfy our viewers and to reinforce our public service mission. We have become more able to strengthen our news offering, and support for French content creation, not on marching onto the playing field of the commercial players,” she said in an interview.

Ernotte also sent an email to staff, reported on by the PureMedias website, in which she singled out TF1 as the driving force behind the attack and said that “it is obviously not for our principal competitor to determine if we are fulfilling our public service mission and obligations. It’s not our role and still less theirs.”

She said that the letter sent to Borne delivered an analysis that was a caricature and a travesty and lacked credibility, up to the point of “deliberately lying” about the pubcaster’s output.

The commercial players have responded to Ernotte’s crticisim by pub licly stating that they unambiguously supported the role of public service bdroadcasting and France Télévisions’ current level of financial support.

Read Next