France Government and Media
World Press Freedom Rank: France 34/180
In 2020, Reporters Without Borders ranked France 34/180 in their Press Freedom Index, stating there has been a disturbing increase in “judicial harassment of investigative reporters” and “physical attacks and harassment.” Freedom House, a US-based advocacy group, reports that newspapers and broadcasters are “owned by companies with close ties to both prominent politicians and the defense establishment.” Further, Reporters Without Borders points out that numerous journalists investigating France’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia were questioned by intelligence services. Finally, editorial independence is not being adequately protected, resulting in conflicts of interest involving media owners with large businesses acquiring media outlets and exerting influence.
Government Influence on Media: French Media consists of a mix of corporately owned media outlets as well as state-owned TV and radio stations. The government provides direct and indirect funding. For example, Radio France and France Televisions (formed from public TV channels France 2, 3, 4,5, France Ô) are owned by the state and funded by revenue from TV license fees and commercial advertising (restricted after 8 pm. and indexed to inflation). France 24 and RFI (Radio France Internationale) is also owned by the French government through France Médias Monde (FMM). RFI is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Budget.
In France, The press is largely free by law, but in practice, the government sometimes pressures journalists when the journalist reports against government interests. For instance, when investigative journalists reported that the government-owned weapons company Nexter sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, the French government pressed charges against the journalists for revealing “state secrets”. When it comes to French private media ownership, the structure is characterized by “complexity and a lack of transparency.” As a result of the complexity of shareholding structures, it is difficult to “identify the final owner.” Some of the large media conglomerates are the media company Vivendi which owns French TV channel Canal+ Group, as well as Universal Music Group, video games, and book publisher Editis. Another conglomerate is Lagardère which owns Hachette publishing house and Relay newsagents, as well as radio, sports and entertainment assets. This results in a strong corporate monopoly that has influence over both the government and media.
In conclusion, the French Government has direct and indirect control over the media outlets, especially on public broadcasters which are owned or financed by the government and influenced by the ruling political party.