France approves PSB reform

France's Council of Ministers have given the go-ahead to its controversial audiovisual reform law project. The new rules are seen as the most dramatic changes to the French broadcasting scene since 1987 and the privatisation of TF1. One of the key elements is a partial advertising ban which comes into effect on January 5th. Approval has also been given to the appointment of France TÈlÈvisions president Patrick de Carolis to his post (he had been expected to be let go). The draft law also transfers the existing regulator's (CSA) authority to name future PSB Presidents to the government for a nomination by decree.

The new law is being urgently submitted to Parliament next month, on November 25th. The law is presented as a global package: besides the PSB ad ban, the reform also introduces changes into France's production culture, outlined by former minister Catherine Tasca, which fixes how much French network investment into production, and establishes new rules for relationships with indie production companies. Finally, it brings into French law the EC inspired 'Television Without Frontiers' directive (SMA) that allows networks to broadcast more commercials (nine minutes instead of six).

Many media groups fear that, in the current financial crisis, the law will completely deregulate the market in favour of TF1 and M6.

Regarding France TÈlÈvisions and its partial ad ban, this will come into force in January after 8.00pm each evening until 6.00am the following morning. A total ban will come in at the end of 2010, that will coincide with the digital switchover.

According to the law draft, France TÈlÈvisions ad revenues losses, estimated to Ä450M, will be compensated by a 0.9 % tax on telcos operating revenues, and a 3% one on private networks complementary ad revenues. PSB licence fee will also be inflation indexed then.

Following the law, France TÈlÈvisions group won't be a holding company anymore but a unique company composed of several networks. This adds to the team's worries about the future evolution of the group of broadcasters. Rightwing deputy from UMP, FrÈdÈric Lefebvre has added fuel to the fire as he talked about the necessity that "a certain amount of people will have to leave" France TÈlÈvisions. Christine Albanel, the Minister of Culture squared up with him saying that the reform was not targeting on "cutting jobs".