An audiovisual reform is taking shape on the initiative of parliamentarians

Will there be an audiovisual reform? While a large part of the law of the former Minister of Culture Frank Riester had been abandoned because of the Covid, the subject is coming back to the fore, on the initiative of the deputies.

Mode of financing, limitation of advertising on France Télévisions, holding company bringing together France Télévisions and Radio France, etc. Two initiatives of the Senate and the National embly presented Wednesday propose a real “big bang” of public broadcasting.

The whole question is whether these texts – the concluding report of a mission and two bills – will be followed up. Because the Minister of Culture, she does not seem in favor of a major reform, which augurs a showdown to come.

The holding pushed again

At this stage, parliamentarians appear confident. “There is a real complementarity between our report and the Senate bill, a real convergence of cross-partisan views, at the same time, which is quite rare”, underlines Jean-Jacques Gaultier, deputy (LR).

And in fact, on several major themes, they come together. First, on the organization: the report by Jean-Jacques Gaultier and Quentin Bataillon recommends a “strategic” holding company bringing together France Télévisions, Radio France, France Médias Monde and INA. For its part, the bill of Senator Laurent Lafon (Centrist Union), which has just been adopted in committee and will be examined next week in public session, also promotes this approach. “We agree 95%”, supports Jean-Jacques Gaultier.

The decisive question remains that of timing. Especially since the large public groups do not want it… But the Senate could exert pressure, demanding to link financing and governance. “The two subjects must be tackled together, explains Laurent Lafon. I am confident that my proposal will be placed on the agenda of the embly. »

Because on the subject of financing, another major point of the parliamentary report, time is running out. The mechanism of a fraction of the VAT, set up last summer, after the abolition of the fee, is supposed to end at the end of 2024, insofar as the organic law relating to finance laws (LOLF) will impose a framework between the origin of a tax and its purpose. The two deputies have just tabled a proposal for an organic law to change the LOLF.

The Minister of Culture spoke in favor of the perpetuation of the VAT a few months ago, which gives all the more force to the proposal of the deputies. “There is certainly no broad parliamentary consensus at this stage, but it may be by the end of 2024”, judge Céline Calvez, Renaissance MP.

Tricky subject of advertising

Finally, the third major common subject between the two chambers: advertising. The two deputies propose a total abolition of advertising on France Télévisions after 8 p.m., including sponsorship and digital, to better differentiate the public service. The shortfall would be compensated by the digital services tax.

Opposite, the senatorial text recommends a cap on advertising for France Télévisions, but also Radio France. The subject is making a lot of noise at the moment, in a context of “war” between private and public channels.

Channel resale made easier in the Senate

Senator Laurent Lafon’s audiovisual bill was examined in committee on Wednesday. Several amendments were adopted, in particular one relating to the transfer of channels. The first version of the text wanted to reduce to two years (against five currently) the period during which a group cannot sell a channel, after an authorization has been issued, as has just been the case for TF1 and M6. Concretely, this provision would reduce the waiting time to sell M6, if RTL Group again wished to cede control. The commission went further, by giving Arcom the possibility of approving a modification of control without constraint of time, “when the modification of control does not undermine the imperative of pluralism and the interest of the public and that it does not have an obviously speculative objective”.

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