a Merchandise submitted to the Rules of market
The publication of the report made by the Lancelot Commission in January with regard to media concentration in France had, as its first impact, the rise of shares prices of the great groups of the sector. The report concluded that the current state of concentration in the media sector is not a threat on pluralism, that there was not reason to be worried about the conclusions of the Commission which, on the other hand, considers that the media depend on the provisions of common law with regard to concentration.
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The publication of the report made by the Lancelot Commission in January with regard to media concentration in France had, as its first impact, the rise of shares prices of the great groups of the sector. The report concluded that the current state of concentration in the media sector is not a threat on pluralism, that there was not reason to be worried about the conclusions of the Commission which, on the other hand, considers that the media depend on the provisions of common law with regard to concentration. Therefore, information is, above all, a merchandise with important offers for the actors that share «the available time of the human brain» just to retake the words of the President and Director of TF1. At the most, the Commission suggests some special regulations inherent to the media.
In addition, it’s pointed out «that a largely deconcentrated market structure does not guarantee necessarily the pluralism of contents». Thus, the intense search of audience can lead to a uniformity of contents to adapt itself to the expectation of the public, and adds that «in those fields, the most intense competence is adapted to contents with great homogeneity.»
To guarantee the pluralism of contents, the editors refer to the «direct regulation of contents», especially by the action of the CSA (Audiovisual Council) with regard to the audiovisual sector. As to the press, the direct and indirect aid of the state to the written press (1.15 million Euros in 2004) would be an additional guarantee for pluralism, but, what are the criteria to get the aid? «The autonomy» of the editorial department and that of journalists would be guaranteed by the stipulations of the March 29, 1935 law which stipulates «the clause de cession» and the «consciousness clause» which allow them to «keep, within the editorial line, a relative distance with regard to the owners and, therefore, limit the risks of damaging the editorial pluralism in case of concentration of capital.»
However, to see the editorial line of a headline against the interests of the owner group and those of the advertisers which provide most of the capital seems to be unlikely. In fact, there’s a sort of self-censorship in the editorial departments that makes some themes to be ignored, others to be highlighted, or to «make up» the information to present it with a more acceptable presentation. These are practices that discredit the reference press, now in crisis, and the information, which has been turned into a mere product submitted to the rules of market.
With regard to the written press, they advocate for the maintenance of the current regulations, that is, a maximum limit of 30% of the total spread including the free one. Apart from the great media empires that developed a multimedia strategy, to establish the three thirds/two thirds/one third rule is proposed. That is, to have a group involved in television, press and radio which, for example, had gotten the 37.5% for television could only expect the 2/3 in the written press and 1/3 of the set limit for radio (150 million of potential listeners!).
Therefore, the Commission opted in a deliberated way for considering information as a merchandise, by accepting the regulations of the common right with regard to concentration. The shareholders of the great media empires can be satisfied; in addition, the stock welcomed the publication of that report with important rise in its bonds. Citizens looking for information just have to check the numerous serious independent media in the Internet which present another form of journalism and information. Obviously, this matter is not included in the reform.
Links to the report
Les problèmes de concentration dans le domaine des médias