French say adieu to ads on state TV
As a ban on advertising on France’s public television network commences on Monday, television viewers watch their favourite prime-time shows uninterrupted by ad breaks.PARIS – Millions of French television viewers tuned in on Monday evening to watch their favourite prime-time shows uninterrupted by ad breaks as President Nicolas Sarkozy's controversial media reform kicked in.
The ban on advertising on France's public television network after 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) has been described as a cultural revolution affecting nearly 25 million viewers.
"Tonight, everything is changing on television," wrote the popular Le Parisien newspaper on Monday, which devoted four pages to the new prime-time programme lineup.
The board of directors of France Televisions voted last month to ban advertising as a government bill overhauling state broadcasting got bogged down in parliament.
The bill comes up for debate again in the Senate on Wednesday and unions have called a strike for that day.
Staff at France 3 television, one of the four state channels, walked off the job on Monday to protest the changes and several midday newscasts were scrapped along with other programmes.
Championed by Sarkozy, the legislation would give the president authority to directly name the head of France Televisions instead of the current procedure of appointment through an independent body.
The reform has been attacked as a power grab by Sarkozy and criticised for handing an advertising revenue boon to private broadcasters such as TF1, owned by Martin Bouygues, a friend of the president.
Sarkozy has said the ban on advertising is a major step to model French public television along the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Supporters of the measure argue state television will no longer have to air shows with mass appeal to draw high audience ratings and advertising revenue.
But critics say it will deprive state broadcasting of badly-needed funds.
The ban will be offset by two new taxes, on Internet service providers and on the extra ad revenue channelled to private television networks.
The EUR 450 million needed to plug the revenue gap has already been written into the 2009 French budget.
"Let's talk about it in a year's time," Culture Minister Christine Albanel said. "I predict the French will love this new television programming that is emerging."
Advertising will be scrapped during evening programming as a first step ahead of a blanket ban set to come into force in November 2011.
[AFP / Expatica]