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TF1 topper blasts digital transition

Le Lay predicts 'gigantic mess'

PARIS — TF1 chief Patrick le Lay on Thursday slammed French terrestrial TV’s planned transition to digital, predicting that it will be a “gigantic mess” and that “no serious player will be able to take part.”

France is planning to switch to digital in the next couple of years, allowing a total of 36 channels to be broadcast.

Le Lay told an analysts conference in Paris that potential takers for those slots faced the major hurdle of current French broadcasting legislation — which prevents any one company from owning more than 49% of a terrestrial channel.

“If we wanted to broadcast LCI (TF1’s round the clock news channel) on digital terrestrial, we would have to sell off a majority stake and therefore lose control of the channel,” he emphasized.

Le Lay went on to say that the number of channels that can already be carried on cable or satellite made the law “totally obsolete.”

A further obstacle, he said, is that viewers will “have to buy themselves a new TV set or a decoder.”

M6 topper upbeat

Le Lay’s comments, reported by Agence France Presse, stood in marked contrast to those of M6 chief Nicholas de Tavernost at a press conference Thursday in which he presented the channel’s fall lineup.

De Tavernost was extremely upbeat about digital terrestrial TV, saying that it would open up new opportunities for broadcasters and advertisers who were scrambling for available airtime in an overcrowded market.

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