PARIS — France’s culture minister Catherine Tasca on Wednesday announced a 6.1% hike in the public broadcasting budget for 2001 to 20.6 billion francs ($2.66 billion) — and promised that an extra $129 million would be forthcoming for terrestrial TV’s transition to digital by 2002.
“We’ve said that we want a strong public broadcasting sector, and the 2001 budget is the financial translation of that desire,” Tasca said at a press conference.
In keeping with government policy, public funds would make up 76.7% of French public broadcasting’s budget, the minister pointed out, compared with 74% this year and 69.1% in 1999. The increase would help pubcasters make up revenue lost as ad time is being cut from 12 to eight minutes in accordance with ongoing broadcasting reforms.
Tasca’s assurances about financing for the switch to digital came after the daily Le Figaro reported that France’s Finance Ministry was refusing to pony up for the project.
Calling the newspaper article “alarmist,” Tasca insisted that the French government had committed to finding an extra $129 million from a special privatization fund.
Broadcasters, though, are far from serene about the project, which private network TF1’s chief Patrick Le Lay recently predicted was doomed to fail. While companies like TF1 are keen to stake their claim to a maximum number of digital terrestrial TV’s 36 channels, French law excludes any web that is owned more than 49% by the same company — in other words, practically all the up-and-running theme channels currently broadcast on cable and satellite.
There are also complaints that digital terrestrial TV will not be able to compete with the huge array of channels available on cable and satellite.
Tasca also announced an extra $29 million, or 9.72%, for the Centre National de la Cinematographie. Coin will go toward French film and audiovisual production in 2001.