ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Libération ? Un cas d’école pour la presse française »
Translated Monday 9 January 2006, by
« Libération ? A case study of the French press »
The analyst Pierre Rimbert has studied the history of the French daily "Libération". He wonders: "How can we stop capitalism in the media?"
The negotiations on the fate of 52 jobs are expected to continue this week at the French daily Libération. The analyst Pierre Rimbert has studied in his most recent book entitled "Libération :de Sartre à Rothschild. Raisons d’agir", 2005. (143 pages, 6 euros) the history of this remarkable case study of the French press.
How has "Libération" evolved from Sartre to Rothschild?
In 1973, the founders of Libération wanted to "let the people talk" and "struggle against the "opportunistic journalism". But, as early as the eighties, the editorial goals of Libération have been subordinated to its economic development. The self-managed newspaper promoting ideas has changed into a business anxious to demolish its competitors. Simultaneously, the young neoliberal journalists of its economy branch became the hub of the editorial group. In 1983 Libération opened its capital to private funds and from 1983 to 1996 80 per cent of the capital passed from the employees to external investors, a hazardous move. From there on, Libération was liable to become the property of anybody with enough money to buy it.
Is the simultaneous annoucement of a loss of jobs and of a development based on the brand Libé coming as a surprize for you?
When the information trade and the cauliflower trade share the same basis, it is not surprizing that Libération or le Monde compare themselves to "brands" struggling for the conquest of a market. What is surprizing is that political parties, democratic organizations or trade-unions do not mobilize more against this commercialization of the press. In 1944, the Resistance has simply forbidden the concentration of general information dailies. In 1972, the Common program of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party explained that "information must not be subjected to the domination of money". But in the last twenty years, it is as if we were witnessing a capitulation in front of industrial groups.
Questioned by its readers and by part of its team, can Libé economically and editorially move backwards?
In fact, to stop capitalism in the presse is a problem for most newspapers. Never in the last 60 years has the concentration of the medias been so intense. From spring 2004 to summer 2005, three of the big French dailies have changed owners! Dassault bought le Figaro, Lagardère recapitalized le Monde and Rothschild put money into Libération. The Press has turned into a business at the service of private interests. Is it not time for a political mobilization to make information a public interest service.
And what about a free top quality publication as suggested by Florence Aubenas, a well known journalist at libé?
To present the transformation of Libé into a advertisement media as a utopia by wage-earners of the newspaper founded by Sartre shows the change that has taken place in the last thirty years. In 1968, journalists associations were asking for newspapers the status of non-profit making associations!
Pierre Rimbert, De Sartre à Rothschild, Raisons d’agir, 2005. 143 pages, 6 euros.
Interview by Sébastien Homer