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France: Constitutional Council Validates Audiovisual Reform

(May 22, 2009) Law 2009-257, on the appointment of the presidents of the companies France Televisions, Radio France, and the Company Tasked with External Audiovisual [Communications], and Law 2009-258, relating to audiovisual services and the new television public services, both dated March 5, 2009, extensively reformed the status of public audiovisual communication in France. The constitutionality of both laws was challenged before the Constitutional Council. The provisions adopted by Parliament were, however, essentially validated by the Council. (Constitutional Council Decisions 2009-576 and 2009-577 of March 3, 2009, JOURNAL OFFICIEL, Mar, 7, 2009, at 4336.)

The major provisions in the new legislation are:

  • The regrouping of the various existing public television companies (e.g., France 2, France 3) into two companies: France Televisions and the Company Tasked with External Audiovisual [Communications]. ThE latter company was not given a specific name. The presidents of France Televisions, Radio France, and the Company Tasked with External Audiovisual [Communications], who used to be appointed by the High Council for Audiovisual Communication, an independent administrative authority whose main mission is to guarantee freedom of audiovisual communication in France, will be now appointed by a decree adopted in the Council of Ministers after consultation with the High Council. A majority of three-fifths of the members of the commissions on cultural affairs of the National Assembly and of the Senate may veto the appointment.
  • The end of advertising on public television. At first, the cancelling of advertisement will be partial and will occur between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The total ban should be in effect by the end of 2011. The loss of revenue from advertising will be offset by the state and from taxes imposed on the advertisement revenues of private television channels and on operators of other forms of electronic communications.
  • Law 2009-258 transposes into national law Directive 2007/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the European Council of December 11, 2007, amending Council Directive 89/552/EEC on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation, or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities, known as the Audiovisual Media Service Directive. The Directive sets forth a comprehensive legal framework covering all audiovisual services in the digital age. (Loi 2007-257 du 5 mars 2009 relative à la nomination des présidents des sociétés France Télévisions et Radio France et de la société en charge de l'audiovisuel extérieur de la France and Loi 2007-258 relative à la communication audiovisuelle et au nouveau service public de la télévision, JOURNAL OFFICIEL, Mar. 7, 2009, at 4321.)