Fears for French broadcaster TV5 Monde
Friday, September 21st, 2007

French-speaking nations are concerned for the future of TV5 Monde - the international French cable channel in French - because of broadcasting reforms promised by President Nicolas Sarkozy. An expert committee is to report to Sarkozy in November, with proposals to streamline state funding for external television, radio and Internet services, currently split between TV5 Monde, the France 24 news channel and Radio France Internationale (RFI).

The aim is to make the network more efficient and create a rival voice to Britain’s BBC, but countries such as Canada, Belgium and Switzerland that contribute to TV5 Monde fear they will be marginalised in a France-based media monolith. ”What we are afraid of is that TV5 Monde will become a tool essentially for the extension of French foreign influence,” said Fadila Laanan, Culture Minister in Belgium’s French Community, who has written to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Created in 1984, TV5 Monde claims 25 million viewers a day in more than 200 countries for a mix of cultural, sports, drama and news programmes supplied by French, Belgian, Swiss and Canadian broadcasters. For non-French nations, it is an important means for promoting international visibility. But France picks up two-thirds of the 90 million euro (127 million dollar) budget, and is in a position to dictate terms.

“I share 100 percent the fears expressed in Belgium and Canada. TV5 Monde is a wonderful creation, but it only has any meaning if it remains multilateral,” said Gilles Marchand, director of the Swiss television station TSR.

Georges-Marc Benamou, who heads the review panel, said “France’s foreign broadcasting currently is a quite extraordinary jumble” but he denied claims that there were plans to merge the three organisations. In a mission statement last month, Sarkozy wrote that “the BBC has the same financial means as France’s external broadcasters but has a level of visibility and influence which are much stronger.”

“It is not a question of copying their model, but of creating the conditions for a more coordinated and effective organisation of overseas radio, television and Internet,” he said.

France 24 was launched by President Jacques Chirac in December 2006 and has an annual budget of 80 million euros. RFI, which claims 45 million listeners, has a budget of 130 million euros paid for by the foreign ministry and the state television licence fee.

(Source: AFP)