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French TV cutting back on U.S. fare

Move part of Sarkozy's broadcasting reform

Gallic pubcaster France Televisions is cutting the amount of foreign content it buys, principally Hollywood movies and TV series.

France Televisions will increase acquisitions of local and European fiction, docus, toons and live arts performances to 70% of its acquisition budget for 2009, compared to the 60% it spent previously, said spokesperson Aurelie Ferton.

She declined to comment on the amount of the budget — the pubcaster does not reveal that figure any year.

However, its production budget will be e375 million ($490.5 million) in 2009, compared to $477.4 million last year.

The move is part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s broadcasting reform, which also nixed primetime advertising on TV channels France 2, 3, 4, 5 and radio network RFO from Jan. 1.

This has caused widespread concern among Gallic industryites who feared the pubcaster wouldn’t have the money to commission as much content as previously.

“We won’t cut our investment in French fiction to make up for the ad drop,” France Televisions general director Patrice Duhamel announced Jan. 23 at the Intl. Festival of Audiovisual Programs (FIPA) in Biarritz.

The pubcaster will be tougher in its negociations with US studios for the acquisitions of new series and films, explained Ferton.

But France Televisions won’t nix all U.S. fare. It will continue to air two of its biggest hits, “Without a Trace,” which nabbed a 23.8 % share on Jan. 19, and “Cold Case,” which punched in a 29.4% share last July. “ER” is set to bow its 14th season this summer.

In contrast with commercial networks M6 and TF1, France Televisions doesn’t “bet on American programs to score its best ratings. We’re more interested in promoting French and European culture,” Ferton said.

Meanwhile, TF1 has picked up new U.S. skeins for 2009, including “Fringe,” “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Mentalist”; M6 has nabbed “Damages” and “Beverly Hills 90210.”

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