New ad break adds to French confusion

As the Copé commission is struggling to find a viable business model for French public service broadcasting in an ad-free environment, the idea to allow a second ad break during dramas and features films on private networks is adding confusion.

Arguing that the ad ban on public channels will benefit private networks and especially TF1 and M6, the project, that could be discussed next autumn in Parliament within the audiovisual law project, is seriously studied by the government.

The idea comes from Jean-François Copé, the President of the Copé commission charged with determining PSB’s new business model. As announcers will supposedly report to private networks after the PSB ad ban, he argues that “it is no question that private networks will be impoverished if ad space is not raised to welcome the commercials banned from public networks.”

Detractors like authors from societies SACD and SCAM have on the contrary declared themselves “stunned” by such a project. “Such a position sheds light on the real purpose of the PSB reform: favouring commercial television and fragilizing or demolishing French public service,” they reacted.

According to Valérie Négrier, head of Aegies Media Expert TV department cited by AFP, the net resources coming from a second ad cut in drama and features films would be approximately €300 million.

Meanwhile, as any possible rise in the TV licence fee has been recently rejected again by President Sarkozy to finance public service broadcasting after the advertising ban, the French government is desperately looking for alternative taxes.

French budget minister Eric Woerth has suggested now the country explore new ideas such as modestly taxing internet services, mobile phones and even fixed phone services.

Questioned about the possibility that a tax on internet and mobile phone could be forbidden by Brussels, Eric Woerth answered that there “was no Brussels problem” as “countries remain free in their fiscal policy.”