French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans for media reform have met with opposition lately – so now he’s called for someone else to stage a national conference on the topic, to help rescue the sector from “the edge of the economic precipice”. In an interview with RTL, he blamed the web partly for that precipice: “The problem of the internet is considerable because how do you expect people to buy their papers in a shop if they’re free on the internet?” French media groups don’t have enough capital, and newspapers are also suffering through inefficient sales channels, he added (via AFP).
On his appointment 12 months ago, Sarkozy did strike an accord between content makers and ISPs under which the former would agree to drop DRM if the latter agree to implement a new three-strikes-and-out policy toward file sharers. But France’s track record since then has been shaky. The senate rejected the national assembly’s proposal for a two percent tax on video website revenues. Then Sarkozy proposed a levy on all TV, internet and mobile ad revenues to fund the removal of ads from France’s main public broadcasters, creating a BBC-style network. But that was met with disapproval from commercial broadcasters, striking staff and Europe’s media commissioner. Meanwhile, Le Monde is making big lay-offs.
At the core of the matter is how well financed French media are to emerge in to the multimedia future. Press expert Patrick Le Floch told AFP the country “faces large structural problems during the transition to the internet” but had only two publishers – Lagardère and Ouest France – with enough clout to make the necessary changes. He called on Sarkozy to lift a ban that caps foreign investment in media groups at 20 percent.