Less than a week before the start of the Annecy Animation Film Festival, proposed reforms to French broadcasting called Monday for shutting down France 4, the country’s only free-to-air channel dedicated mainly to kids’ and family programming, among other measures.
The reform is meant to improve the quality of France’s broadcasting services, which President Emmanuel Macron described as the “shame of the Republic” last December, and to cut between €250 million ($294 million) and €500 million ($589 million) out of a €3.9 billion budget by 2022.
Under the proposals delivered by culture minister Françoise Nyssen, France 4, one of the linear channels of public broadcasting group France Televisions, would turn over some of its content to France 5, while its children’s programming would be put on the broadcaster’s digital service.
France’s animation producers and guilds have reacted with concern to the proposal.
“The backbone of the French ecosystem has always been a strong broadcasting network. While we embrace digital platforms as a revenue diversification, we are concerned, as parents, by the disappearance of a free and ad-free channels, and, as producers, by the loss of a reliable financing partner,” said Baptiste Babin, the co-founder of Backup Media Group (“Submergence,” “Girls of the Sun”). Babin is now co-managing director of Millimages (“Molang,” pictured), one of France’s leading animation production banners.
The guild of animated film producers said that “shutting down France 4 would go against what other European broadcasters (BBC, ZDF/ARD, Rai and TVE) have been doing.” The guild added that France 4 helps showcase the “prominence of the French animation industry – the world’s second biggest – renowned for the quality of its schools, its employment and its exports.”
French animation travels more than any other kind of French film and TV content. Exports of local animated content reached €130 million ($153 million) in 2017, a 41% increase compared to 2015, while sales of French animated shows brought in €75 million ($88 million) in 2016, a 50% increase compared with 2015, according to figures unveiled by the National Film Board on Tuesday.
Animation also represents about 25% of the programs watched online in France, with 2.1 billion videos watched.
Ramping up the broadcaster’s digital offering is a priority, Nyssen said, adding that an additional €150 million ($176.5 million) would be invested in digital by 2022.
Two new websites will be launched as part of this digital push: one dedicated to art- and culture-themed podcasts and web series, and another with short and innovative formats aimed at young audiences.
While the reform is meant to save at least €250 million, Nyssen said €560 million ($660 million) would continue to be invested in series, documentaries and TV films produced for French public broadcasters.