Sarkozy scraps English TV service

Public channels may lose ads

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing a radical change to news channel France 24, the Gallic answer to CNN and the BBC that bowed just 13 months ago.

He intends to merge it with TV5Monde, a channel aimed at international audiences, and Radio France Intl. to form an umbrella organization similar to the BBC World Service.

Sarkozy will stop funding its English and Arabic webs. It also had been due to bow a Spanish service this year.

“I am not prepared to use taxpayers’ money to broadcast a channel that does not speak French,” Sarkozy told a press conference on Tuesday. “We can have regional subtitling in Spanish, Arabic, English to carry a vision that is more French.”

The news will surprise local industryites. France 24 was proposed by Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who was irritated by American and British coverage of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

He wanted a more Gallic take on the news, available widely, but his dream took years to become a reality.

Sarkozy also called for an end to advertising on pubcaster France Televisions, which would instead be financed by a tax on the advertising revenues of private channels and a minor tax on “new communications, such as Internet access or mobile phones.”

Sarkozy’s comments sent shares in France’s two largest commercial broadcasters soaring. TF1 shares closed at e18.48 ($27.17), up 10.66% on the day. Smaller rival M6 shares ended at $25.37, up 4.79%.

France Televisions president Patrick de Carolis said he was “very watchful regarding the impact of this decision, in particular on the members of our advertising enterprises, the professional future of which will remain my first preoccupation.”