Watchdog blasts France 2 for Juppe blunder

12th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 12 (AFP) - A crisis at France's main state television network over an inaccurate news report deepened Thursday when the national broadcast regulator put the channel on formal notice that it must properly inform its viewers or face penalties.

PARIS, Feb 12 (AFP) - A crisis at France's main state television network over an inaccurate news report deepened Thursday when the national broadcast regulator put the channel on formal notice that it must properly inform its viewers or face penalties.

 France 2 television channel "did not respect its obligation to provide proper information to viewers," the Higher Audovisual Council (CSA) said in a statement.

It added it would be closely watching the channel in the future to make sure it fulfilled its role  notably by providing "proper information"  and warned it could face hefty fines.

It was the first time the CSA had ever issued such a public warning against any of France's television networks, members of the body told AFP.

The uproar was triggered by a February 3 newscast during which France 2 reported that President Jacques Chirac's right-hand man, former prime minister Alain Juppe, was stepping down from politics after being convicted for illegal party financing.

In fact, just as the report went to air, Juppe was giving an exclusive live interview to rival commercial channel TF1 in which he said the opposite  that he intended to stay on as head of Chirac's UMP party, Bordeaux mayor and MP to fight the graft conviction on appeal.

France 2's reporters and other employees, dismayed at the gaffe that they believed came from an obsession by their bosses to beat ratings-leader TF1 at all cost, adopted a no-confidence vote late Tuesday against their executive news director, Olivier Mazerolle.

The next day, Mazerolle tendered his resignation to management, which accepted it and also announced a two-week suspension for the channel's star news presenter, David Pujadas.

In its statement, the CSA said France 2 should put commercial considerations in second place and notably "ensure the truthfulness of its news."

The stern warning was issued after summoning the head of France 2, Christopher Baldelli, and the chief executive of the channel's parent company France Televisions, Marc Tessier, to hear them out on the matter.

The channel declined Thursday to respond to requests to comment on the warning.

In a statement Wednesday, Tessier said: "The error committed... is as painful for the whole of the newsroom as it is for all the network's employees. It must lead us to review the procedures of our bulletins and our reports in a spirit of accurateness and rigour."

The ordeal at France 2 echoed a greater upheaval at its British counterpart, the BBC, which has been coming to grips with its own embarrassment over a controversial news story.

In that case, the head of the British corporation, Greg Dyke, resigned last month one day after a judicial inquiry criticised the BBC's airing of a report last year which claimed that the British government deliberately exaggerated the case for invading Iraq.

Although the BBC's board of directors unreservedly apologised to the government following the finding, Dyke and many British journalists blasted the verdict as one-sided.

BBC reporters and other staff held a rare public protest earlier this month aimed at defending the publicly-funded broadcaster and maintaining its record of independence.

France's public sector broadcasting woes also continued in the form of a strike by reporters at Radio France which Thursday entered its 17th day  the longest stoppage to hit a publicly-owned French radio station in 25 years.

The radio reporters are demanding that their salaries be boosted to the levels of their counterparts in state television.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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