French clear up picture

Clarifying the new conservative government’s position on the TV sector, French communications minister Alain Carignon said he would relax rules preventing any shareholder from holding more than a 25% stake in a private web.

Carignon made the announcement before a parliamentary commission Wednesday.

The move could take effect in June and might, for example, pave the way for the Bouygues group to up its current 25% holding in top Gallic web TF1.

Carignon also told the commission that the question of relaxing current programming quotas will be studied.

Thorough examination

Responding to pressure from within government ranks and from the television industry in general, the minister said that the state of public sector financing will be thoroughly examined and that a new set of “operating obligations” will be drawn up by October.

Private webs TF1 and M6 have increasingly criticized pubcasters France 2 and France 3, accusing the duo of operating as fundamentally commercial outfits to the detriment of their public service obligations.

Carignon is expected to provide a clearer definition of what basic services pubcasters must provide.

Commenting on the Franco-German cultural web Arte, which has national coverage in France but less than 1% of the audience, the minister said that the highbrow network will not “for the moment” be kicked off the former La Cinq frequencies it now uses.

Carignon appeared to reject the idea of handling the ex-La Cinq spot to any new generalist network, arguing that such a move would have a negative effect on the current TV economy.

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