French viewers have for the first time watched prime-time television without advert breaks, as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s media reforms get under way, but journalists at the national stations are threatening to strike.
Advertising is now banned on French public television between 20.00hrs and 0600hrs and will be phased out altogether by 2011. It is part of Sarkozy’s move to shake up public broadcasting. He says his plan will improve the quality of programming but critics and unions say it is a power grab that will deprive state broadcasters of funds, they say it will lead to the 'Berlusconiation' of French TV, particularly given a new proposal to allow the President to appoint the head of national networks.
Sarkozy says the move will allow state-run channels to make better quality programmes because they will no longer have to attract large audiences in order to secure advertising revenue. The shortfall will be funded through a higher tax on advertisements aired on private channels and a new tax imposed on internet providers and mobile phone operators, the government says.