French TV squeeze

Plan for pubcasters ad rev cuts blasted

PARIS — The French government is coming under increasing pressure to save pubcaster France Television from serious financial difficulty.

Beleaguered Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann was warned Monday that moves to reduce the amount of advertising, particularly on the main public network France 2, could condemn the pubcaster to being an onlooker at a time when other networks are launching thematic cable and satellite channels, and are preparing to bid for digital terrestrial outlets.

The warning came at the annual Communication University, an event held outside Bordeaux that brings together film and TV execs with government reps.

Watchdog warning

What was most surprising was that the alarm bell was rung by Veronique Cayla, a member of the powerful Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisual (CSA), France’s TV regulatory watchdog.

Trautmann’s plans to cut ad revenue to the pubcasters has already caused a wave of criticism, leading Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to postpone initial debate on the audiovisual reform.

In its first stage, the Trautmann project requires the pubcasters to reduce ad time by two minutes an hour, a move that is expected to cost around 600 million francs ($97 million) in lost revenue. Estimates are, however, that the government is only guaranteeing $48 million from its coffers to offset the difference.

Expense expansion

Cayla noted that the shortfall comes against a background of increasing sports rights costs, upcoming negotiations for film output deals with the Hollywood studios and the costly introduction of a 35-hour working week in France.

France’s production community is also concerned about the financial future of France Television. Production companies fear that a cash-strapped pubcaster will not be in a position to finance shows, leaving the production sector short of a vital client.

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