Gallic TV regulator gives political air time warning

B'casters giving disparate amounts to candidates

PARIS — TV regulator the Conseil Superieur de L’Audiovisuel (CSA) issued a warning Tuesday to broadcasters TF1, France 2, France 3, Canal Plus and M6 about the disparate amounts of air time they are giving presidential candidates before the May 5 election.

The air time allotted to socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and President Jacques Chirac since the beginning of the year is roughly equivalent to the time allotted to all other 17 hopefuls combined.

The CSA warned that stations must give “significantly more than half the time” devoted to the electoral campaign to candidates other than Jospin and Chirac.

Though the CSA noted that certain channels have tried to level the playing field, it acknowledged that “the majority of the declared candidates has only been allowed a very reduced voice.” The CSA also affirmed it was “abnormal” that these candidates not be given an “equal voice,” especially on the most popular magazine shows.

In a country where elected officials are banned from buying air time to promote themselves, appearances in other broadcast venues are essential. The most watched news programs are TF1 and France 2’s 8 p.m. broadcasts. Ironically, whenever Jospin or Chirac have appeared on these programs recently, audience share has dropped.

“It’s been a great opportunity for the other channels,” one French television producer noted. “People are tuning out Jospin and Chirac’s rhetoric and discovering the other channels’ nightly newscasts.”

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