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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: TV5 : les francophones haussent le ton

by Sébastien Homer

The French-Speaking World Raises its Voice Concerning TV5

Translated Monday 28 January 2008, by Emma Paulay

Relations between Nicolas Sarkozy and the media are not as simple as some make out. When he announced the end of advertising on public television and radio, there was no applause to be heard, only questions. Same goes for overseas radio and television: despite the recommendation to create a holding to be named France Monde between now and 2012 to allow RFI, TV5 Monde and France 24 to pool their resources, Sarkozy saw fit to announce that this year he would have HIS international channel and it would only speak French.

This comes as a harsh warning shot for France 24 as the recent teaming up of France Télévisions and TF1 is still fragile. This explains the trilingual reply in French, English and Arabic from the channel’s trade unions who consider that “France 24 deserves neither contempt nor rush decisions”. The presidential sally was also extremely painful for RFI whose multilingualism and resources have gradually been chipped away.

But it’s at TV5 Monde that the pill is hardest to swallow. And with good reason: the channel which associates France, Quebec, Switzerland and Belgium was founded in 1984 and has over 25 million viewers in 202 countries and an annual budget of 90 million Euros to its name. Yet, Paris has not proved to be practised in the art of compromising with its partners. Fadila Laanan, the Belgian minister for Culture was extremely upset to have received a note with no letter-head or signature via the French ambassador to Belgium as the sole working document and feels that the authors “should brush up their act”. As it stands, she says, Belgium won’t pay, “for a promotion tool for France. If they don’t listen to us, then we shall have to review our investment, which we don’t wish to do”.

Same story in Switzerland, where Gilles Marchand, director of French-Swiss television has announced that, “if the multilateral dimension of TV5 is not guaranteed, we have no intention of staying”. As he sees it, “the French proposals from the new governing body seem to be incompatible with the French speaking channel’s principle of autonomy and respect of its partners. Dissolving TV5 to give its network to France 24 is senseless as far as we are concerned.”

Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Quebec, Jean Charest, said exactly that to François Fillon: “We are deeply, deeply attached to TV5. To us it is a window on the world that we have come to appreciate.” He adds, “TV5 is the French speaking world’s great success because all countries adhere to it strongly. Whatever the governing rules: this unity and the fact that TV5 is a project common to all French-speaking countries should be respected”. Although he found his French homologue “reassuring” he warned: “Now, we’ll see how things proceed...” TV5’s Kader Abderrahim of the journalists’ section of the CGT trade union concluded: “Our partners’ reactions are welcome, and a contrast to our management’s inertia. In any case, on the subject of Sarkozy’s project, we too shall be making our voices heard”.

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