France ups funding for pubcasters

Prime Minister Jospin ups amount to $3.1 bil

PARIS — French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has stepped in to bail out his beleaguered culture minister Catherine Trautmann by agreeing to increase the amount the government had initially planned to spend on French public television next year.

Trautmann, who has struggled to get her audiovisual reform package accepted, plans to cut two minutes per hour of ad time from pubcasters France 2 and France 3 — a move which is expected to cost the public channels 600 million francs ($96 million) in lost revenues next year.

In July, the first round of inter-ministerial budget negotiations looked as though the government would only make good around half that amount, leaving the pubcaster holding company, France Television, in deep financial distress.

$241 mil increase

Originally, Trautmann had secured a $193 million increase in the audiovisual budget for 2000, but at a budget meeting of ministers this week, Jospin ruled that the amount given to state-run television and radio will be upped by $241 million to $3.1 billion.

France Television will be the biggest beneficiary of Jospin’s decision. Together, France 2 and France 3 will see their budgets increase by $113 million. France 2 will now have $854 million at its disposal next year, while regional France 3 will have $943 million.

Jospin’s intervention is a welcome relief to newly appointed France Television prexy Marc Tessier, who faced the unpalatable prospect of ever-increasing rights costs, developing new digital channels and prepping a bid for terrestrial digital, with a reduced amount of funding.

The news is also likely to calm fears in France’s production community that companies would be hit hard if France Television was forced to scale down production orders.