Sarkozy calls for national conference on ailing media

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French president says the internet is posing a problem to traditional media.

28 May 2008

PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy called Tuesday for a national conference on how to pull France's media sector back from the "edge of the economic precipice" and help it face the challenge of the internet.

"Democracy cannot function with a press permanently on the edge of the economic precipice," he told French radio, saying he hoped the conference could be held later this year.

The French media is in turmoil, with public television workers resorting to strikes over plans to end advertising on public channels, major job cuts at the newspaper of reference Le Monde, and political jibes at media organisations including Agence France-Presse.

The traditional media is also struggling to face the Internet challenge.

"I add that 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," Sarkozy asked on RTL radio.

He said a "gigantic problem" facing French newspapers is distribution, adding that finding a shop to buy a newspaper in towns and cities was "hard work".

Newspapers are sold in France almost exclusively in a limited number of kiosks or specialist shops, most of which close early in the evening and on Sundays.

Sarkozy called for more sales points and support for newspaper groups to deliver their products directly to people's homes.

He said there was a problem of capital for media organisations and that he wanted to work with "all (media group) owners and directors of newspapers to see how we can re-establish a minimum of profitability for the press".

"In short, I want us to be able to discuss these matters, find solutions, and guarantee the independence of the press and the diversity of opinion," he said.

[AFP / Expatica]

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