No more ads on French public TV?

From Sotires Eleftheriou in Paris

In a surprise announcement President Sarkozy said that the government is looking to drop ads from the public sector television and radio channels. These are currently financed by a licence fee of E116 a year, with advertising bringing in an extra E800 million, providing France 2 with 40 per cent of its budget and France 3 with 30 per cent.

Sarkozy said that a public broadcaster had to be independent of commercial constraints; his announcement came hot on the heels of the disclosure that the public channel France 3 had made cuts in a documentary about the dairy industry in order to appease possible complaints by its leading advertiser. It is proposed the shortfall could be made up by a tax on advertising on the commercial channels and possibly also by a tax on Internet access providers.

The share price of the commercial channel TF1 rose on the basis of the announcement. The opposition stated that such a measure constituted giving a present to the private channels.

Sarkozy's cultural adviser spent time in London last year studying the BBC as a model for ad-free public broadcasting. In a further move the President said he wasn't happy for the tax payer to fund France 24 any longer and wants it merged under an umbrella body with TV5 Monde and Radio France Internationale to form a BBC Worldwide look-a-like.

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