Civil Liberties

Where Presidents Meddle With Your Television Set


Starting last night, thanks to Le Prez Nicolas "Bling Bling" Sarkozy, France's four (count 'em!) national public television stations are now prohibited from broadcasting commercials between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Lest you think this is some kind of Hungaro-Gallic starve-the-beast ploy to get L'etat out of the TV biz, think again:

The government says the reforms will improve the quality of programming on public television by freeing it from "the tyranny of ratings" and it has pledged to make up for any shortfall in advertising revenues. […]

The reform creates a funding gap for public TV which will largely be filled by a levy on private broadcasters and Internet providers and by government support.

The 2009 budget includes 450 million euros to compensate for the loss of revenue[.]

The usual protest strikes are scheduled, etc.

Note: French households currently pay 116 Euros a year (newly indexed to inflation) for the privilege of owning a television set. Also, as every French journalist is quick to tell you in conversation, Sarko is close personal friends with the heads of various private television honchos and other media owners, and has been cruder than his predecessor in using that influence to quash stories and reward allies; neither of which has ever proven particularly difficult in France. And, as part of the same law banning ads, the president will now have the direct ability (instead of merely the indirect ability) to hire and fire heads of state-owned media.