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November 2011

Testimony on the History of Broadcasting
[Part XIV] France: Serge Regourd, Professor of Université des Sciences paciales de Toulouse

Structural Problems of Program-production System

Tetsuro Nitta

France Télévisions, the French public television broadcaster, is currently undergoing sweeping reform. While, in our July issue, Mr. Pflimlin, président-directeur général of France Télévisions, related his vision for its future, including branching out into new media, some media scholars have voiced their misgivings. Serge Regourd, professor of Université des Sciences paciales de Toulouse and the author of “Vers la fin de la télévision publique?” (Towards the end of public television?”), pointed out structural problems embedded in the program-production system unique to France.

In 1974, the Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française (ORTF), a bloated public monopoly, was broken up into seven companies. The production division was spun off as a separate program production entity and later privatized. In France, a country noted for its drive to protect its cultural market, there is content regulation imposed on broadcasters by legislative decree so that more than two-thirds of broadcast contents such as dramas should be produced by domestic independent production companies. As a result, including regular news shows, programs produced by France Télévisions itself are limited at around 10-15% of all the contents aired. That means, Prof. Regourd says, France Télévisions owns copyrights on those limited numbers of contents. This copyright situation will be a major impediment to the future ambition of France Télévisions looking to develop into the new media, because offering contents to various platforms inevitably involves negotiations with copyright-owing independent production companies. In the age of multi-faceted broadcasting media, the viewers are becoming more content-oriented and losing the traditional habit of being drawn to favorite channels. Prof. Regourd contends that the present structure which separates broadcasting from production should be changed, and the initiative of program-production along with copyrights should be in the hands of the public service broadcasting house.

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