French Seeking a Murdoch to Rescue Them

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French Seeking a Murdoch to Rescue Them

Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 03, 2005 10:57 am

The French, Explained

How come the French all think alike?

Well, OK, the French don't really all think alike: In May, 56% of them wisely voted "no" in the referendum on the European Constitution, which enjoyed the support not only of every major political party but also all of the major media outlets, from the leftist Le Monde to the right-wing Catholic paper La Croix. But if most French voters opposed the Constitution, why was their view reflected nowhere in the media? Surely there must have been a market for anti-Constitution sentiment, which any canny publisher or broadcaster could have exploited to boost circulation or ratings. But there was zippo.

This puzzle was recently solved for us by a well-placed French source. Part of the answer, he reminds us, is that much of the French broadcast media is state-owned, as is the venerable news agency Agence France-Presse.

But that's not all: Even the "private" French press is massively subsidized. It enjoys lower tariffs for freight transport, a postal discount, a reduced value-added tax rate and a complete exemption from local taxes on investment. Government also subsidizes secondary printing facilities and helps pay for the distribution of French papers abroad. If you're a journalist -- or just a "journalist" -- you also pay income taxes at a lower rate. And the best part: If a newspaper faces revenue losses because of declining advertising or circulation, the government will help make up the difference. The only catch is that, to benefit from this munificence, publications must officially register with a state agency (the French call it an organisme) run by a committee of editors and government functionaries.

The ostensible rationale for all this madness is that the government wants to avoid capitalistic media concentration and foster a plurality of viewpoints. The effect, of course, is the exact opposite: Unlike in the U.S. or Britain, in which various publications tend to represent some segment or other of market opinion or taste, French journalists are utterly indifferent to the views of their readers. Instead, they tend to write articles with a view to impressing their colleagues, a classic media echo-chamber that's as conformist as it is insular. No wonder the French public tunes out: Le Monde, the biggest and most influential daily in a country of 60 million, has a circulation of only 400,000.

One silver lining: According to our source, there's a huge hunger for alternative viewpoints, much of it provided by the blogosphere. And France still awaits its own Rush Limbaugh.

-- Bret Stephens
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Post by Ralph » Wed Aug 03, 2005 2:30 pm

A Murdoch would be good for France?

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein


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