French govt to choose PSB president

There have been angry reactions to President Sarkozy’s announcement earlier in the week on his plans for French public service broadcasting. While industry has talked of plans to add new taxes to compensate for the advertising ban, other decisions have also prompied protest. In media and political circles, it is the choice to give government the power to name the public service broadcaster’s president that is arousing anger.

Until now, the choice, after a vote, was one attributed to regulatorybody CSA. Yesterday, the left-wing opposition talked about a regressionand the aim to control public television.

The Copé Commission worked four months on the new public servicebroadcasting profile and business model, but finally President Sarkozydecided to do it the way he wanted to. On Wednesday Sarkozy announcedthat the ad ban would start after 8pm as of January 1 2009 instead ofSeptember 2009 as suggested by the Commission. With prime-time PSBschedules starting at at 8:30pm instead of 9pm currently, all networkswill be obliged to adapt and shorten the 8pm news editions andprogramming.
In the industry world, another source of protest is the idea to raisethe tax on web access and mobile operators’ revenues. Going furtherthan the Copé Commission, the tax after Sarkozy will be of 0.9% insteadof 0.5%. And would bring €378M.

Operators have immediately protested declaring that “such a tax, thatgoes further the suggestion from the Copé Commission, is bothcounterproductive and illegal.” According to a spokesman from themobile sector, operators will “ineluctably be led to transfer the wholeor a part of this tax to their consumers’ bills.”

For their part, web access operators, whose revenues linked to TV-typecontent amount, they say, to €500 million only, have not ruled outgoing to the EC on the matter as such a “project could be seen as Stateaid to the TV sector.”

Amounting to €450 million, the partial ad ban (after 8 :00pm)compensation will also be financed with a three per cent tax on privatenetworks’ additional ad revenues, for a total €80M.

At no time did Nicolas Sarkozy mention the licence fee again, despite the Copé suggestion to index-link it to inflation.

PSB teams have angrily claimed the government will unknit publictelevison and plunge it into a long-term under-financing capacity.