Address by Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, on the occasion of the review of media credits at the National Assembly

Mr President,
Madam President of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education,
Mr President of the Finance Committee,
Distinguished rapporteurs,
Ladies and gentlemen of the Assembly,
Dear friends,
I would like to begin by thanking the speakers for their interventions and questions, but also for the work they have done, and more generally, their interest and attention to the budget of my department and even more to this great issue that is becoming more and more important to us all, especially in the digital age, Communication.
So I wanted to start by thanking you and also expressing my satisfaction. You will have understood that this feeling is based on the remarkable quality of the budget of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, which I have the honour of presenting to the parliamentary representation, and in particular the funds that my ministry will devote this year to the media, whether it is the press, which has truly exceptional support, or the audiovisual sector, which is also a clear and visible priority of the State.
My satisfaction is also rooted in the fact that, as you know, the General Review of Public Policies has finally led, among other modernization operations, to bring back to the fold, rue de Valois, the Directorate in charge of communication, with the creation of a new Directorate-General for Media and Cultural Industries. It is a sign that the natural union between culture and communication, which has been part of political mores for 30 years – since Jean-Philippe LECAT, in 1978 – is finally sealed and fixed in our administrative organization. This is a sign that what was already obvious is recognized as a necessity at a time when the digital revolution is upsetting and further intensifying the link between these two key activities of the ministry.
It is also a sign of the State’s interest in the issues of Communication and of the constancy with which it supports this sector by following proven procedures, that is to say procedures that respect the independence of public expression. This is the meaning, for example, of the reform of advertising on public television, which allows channels to escape the vagaries of advertising markets in times of economic crisis, in order to fully respond to their founding triptych: "Inform, cultivate, distract". Many cultural and popular programs, Mireille or Apocalypse, have confirmed the relevance of this approach.

Those are the more general comments I wanted to make before I get to the answers to your questions.
If I may, I’ll start with the press.
As you know, the written press makes an essential contribution to the information of citizens, to the dissemination and, in a sense, to the very existence of currents of thought and opinion. The vitality of the press and the prospect of a secure future are essential to our democratic life.
For this reason, the State has long been committed to guaranteeing freedom of the press, supporting the development of its broadcasting, strengthening the conditions for its pluralism and independence and promoting its modernization.
With a total budget of €419.3 million, the draft finance law allows for the implementation of the exceptional support measures decided at the end of the Press Conference. The State thus testifies to its determination to accompany in its changes a sector which, with this Assembly, is one of the great crucibles of democratic debate.
The Government’s ambition is divided into two specific objectives:
1. Resolutely support the sector in its modernization and the renewal of its economic model in the face of the digital revolution;
2. Support the development of press dissemination and consolidate the conditions for its pluralism and independence.
FIRST GOAL.
It is first of all a question for the State to accompany the efforts of modernization of the sector and its support for structural and innovative initiatives, ensuring, in the long term, the conditions for the development of the written press in all its forms, paid and free, printed and digital, and to consolidate its economic situation, the best guarantor of its independence.
The funds earmarked for the written press will primarily support the efforts made by the sector to modernize its structures and operating methods, as part of a contractualisation process. Thus:
- Aid for the development of online press services, renovated following the General Press Conference, will amount to €20.2 million. This incentive to digital innovation will be further strengthened by the next extension of the tax provision for investment, article 39a-A of the General Tax Code, Online press publishers recognised by the Joint Commission on Press Publications (CPPAP) will soon be eligible. And to affirm the principle of technological neutrality between digital and print media, note that the regime in favor of media patronage, recently extended by a rescript of the Minister of Budget, will also apply to online press publishers. In all these areas, the draft finance law confirms a real turning point in state aid for the digital press.
- Whether it is industrial modernization or support for digital innovation, the measures strengthened in 2010 are an exceptional opportunity for the emergence of a real research and development policy for the benefit of the entire profession. In this regard, the Ministry of Culture and Communication is encouraging the collective initiative of several publishers who have come together, under the impetus of the Ministry, to create a European centre for research and innovation in new media, called MEDIAS21. I hope that this collective project will be able to see the light of day in the coming months in order to effectively accompany the transformation of techniques and uses of the press, as Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE wishes. The creation of this European «médialab» is a message of the future that proves that, despite its extreme harshness and as restrictive as it may be, the current crisis situation in the press is also bringing new opportunities.
- This renewal will necessarily require an even more sustained effort towards the public, especially young readers. This is why €8 million in funding for youth readership will be mobilized. As Michel Herbillon rightly points out, we must redouble our efforts and strengthen the measures put in place since 2005. I confirm the establishment of an interdepartmental working group (National Education, Culture and Communication) in charge of implementing several measures, coming from the States General of the press, in favor of media education. The success of the «my newspaper offered» operation, which brings together 60 national, regional and departmental dailies, is a sign of encouragement for this new working group. More than 180,000 subscription requests have been registered since its launch on 27 October. This success will hopefully convince other press publishers to join the movement next year.
- The allocation for state subscriptions to Agence France-Presse will be €113.4 million, an increase of €2 million over 2009. The evolution of the Agency’s status has been mentioned several times. Like all media companies, the Agency is facing a profound change in its sector of activity, which requires it to take an important strategic step to consolidate its status as a world-class news agency.
- AFP’s CEO presented a report on the
modernization of the Agency’s status and governance. Since then, discussions have begun between AFP and the public authorities to consider the broad guidelines for the future statute, which will, in any case, be drawn up in consultation with the Agency, but also with staff representatives. It is the responsibility of the public authorities to preserve the future by giving AFP the best advantages in the face of increasingly threatening competition. That’s the thinking we’re doing right now.
AS REGARDS THE SECOND OBJECTIVE: the defence of pluralism and support for dissemination, the government intends to strengthen its aid with the aim of calibrating it in the most effective and relevant way. Thus:
- A massive three-year plan to support the development of portage has been in place since 2009 to promote the dissemination of political and general press information. €70 million will be spent again in 2010 on this aid. In addition, a system of exemption from employer charges for sellers-peddlers and press carriers was adopted in 2009. An envelope of €12 million will be allocated in 2010. This indirect support for the portage network also affects the free political and general press, which has been able to benefit from advantages similar to the paid press. As you can see, dear Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE, the State is also concerned about the situation of the free press, which will, I remind you, also have access to the new aid scheme for digital innovation.
- other aid for broadcasting is being reinforced, in particular aid for the postal transport of the press, which will make it possible to honour the commitments made under the agreements of 23 July 2008 between the State, the press and La Poste, which provide for a contribution of €242 million for 2010, of which €83 million is included in the “Press” programme, and €159 million in the “Business Development and Employment” programme of the “Economy” mission that we would like to include, like Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE, within a single programme to benefit from better readability.
As soon as the States General of the print media closed, one of our priorities was to put in place a moratorium to temporarily postpone the postal price increase provided for in the July 2008 agreements. The compensation for the shortfall for La Poste resulted in the inclusion of €25.4 million in the Amending Finance Law in 2009 and €28 million were again entered in the PLF for 2010. The effects of this one-year moratorium will result in an additional cost during the seven years covered by the agreements until 2015, in total no less than €233 million.
The question of a possible extension of the moratorium is extremely sensitive. If it were retained, it would result in a substantial new budgetary effort on the part of the State, which would necessarily have to offset the cost in the La Poste accounts. And, beyond that, what is at stake is the credibility of the agreements signed in 2008 as well as the coherence of the actions carried out since the end of the States General of the written press, I am thinking in particular of the massive support for distribution by portage.
Finally, the State’s commitment to pluralism: support for national daily political and general news with low advertising resources, support for regional daily newspapers, Departmental and local political and general information with low resources of classifieds and aid to the regional weekly press will thus see their endowments strengthened for a total of nearly 12 million€.
The States General of the Written Press were the occasion for a great debate on the conditions required for companies to have the critical size that allows them to cope with large international companies. They concluded very clearly, in response to Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE’s legitimate concern, that the current anti-concentration measures were not an obstacle to their development.
The State has put in place a truly historic support plan at the end of the States General of the written press. This exceptional plan is not an incentive to assistantship, which would be the worst thing for the press, but it aims to facilitate the necessary restructuring of the sector. That’s a chance that publishers have to take. But that’s a first step. From now on, a “Act II” of the Estates General must be launched, which gives priority to readers, the quality of information, the professions and values of journalists, the costs of producing information, as the woes of French photojournalism bitterly remind us today.
This second stage of the Estates General, I want to lead it now around three axes:
1) In the development of the digital press, as I have already pointed out.
2) In the field of training, then, by the Employment and Skills Development Commitment (EDEC) signed last June. €18 million will be allocated over three years to this training financing plan.
The government asked Denis JEAMBAR and René SILVESTRE to draw up the outline of a National Conference of Journalism Professions, intended to make concrete changes in the professional training of journalists. This conference should be organized as soon as possible.
3) In the field of the defence of the values of journalism, a major issue on which the State wished the profession to organize itself to draft a code of ethics that has just been made public by a group of independent sages led by Bruno FRAPPAT. This text is now in the hands of the social partners and I will try to ensure that it can be recognized and applied quickly by the whole profession, possibly by annexing it to the national convention of journalists, as suggested by the President of the Republic at the close of the States General.
The outcome, or in any case the desired outcome of this Act II must ultimately be an aid to the readers. This is the purpose of the mission entrusted to Aldo Cardoso, who is due to give me his report on the good governance of public aid at the beginning of 2010.
Despite all these challenges that still remain to be met, I believe I can share with you the conclusion that, in this finance bill, the Government’s support for the press is massive and targeted, as it has never been before, and that it contributes to equipping the French press with all the assets that will enable it to consolidate its positions in the face of international media competition.
It seems to me that the conclusion could be the same for the audiovisual sector. Indeed, the 2010 budget for public and external broadcasting that I have the pleasure of presenting to you today is up by €91 million, or +2.5% compared to the budget entered in the initial 2009 Finance Act.
This significant increase, made possible by the indexation of the fee on inflation and its two euro increase decided last winter by the Parliament, during the debate on the law on audiovisual communication, will enable us to carry out the major reforms undertaken for the sector and to continue our policy of active support for creation.
- The first major reform is that of the external audiovisual sector.
This reform, initiated in the summer of 2007 on the initiative of the President of the Republic, was essential. As you know, all the players in the sector shared the observation that our external audiovisual policy had suffered for too long from a lack of coherence and efficiency on the part of its operators.
This reform is now very well advanced: the formation of the group of external audiovisual around the holding company Audiovisual Extérieur de la France (AEF) is completed.
In addition, the law of March 5, 2009, which I quoted to you a few moments ago, has allowed us to draw the consequences of this reform, as it reaffirms the strategic steering and coordination role of AEF, which becomes the national programme company responsible for France’s external audiovisual. As such, the negotiation of its contract of objectives and means is ongoing.
In this context, the strategy proposed by AEF’s management consists, in the first instance, to make strong investments in each company before a return on investment phase through better coordination between companies and through the development of own resources. The sharp increase in public resources registered in the PLF for the company AEF testifies to the State support for the strategy proposed by its managers: €315 million for the audiovisual outside France in 2010, or an endowment up by 6% compared to the amount entered in the initial finance law 2009.
Thanks to these strengthened resources, France 24, a news channel born in 2006, will gradually roll out worldwide and in several languages. TV5 Monde, a channel to which I am particularly attached, is committed in the second year of implementation of its 2009-2012 strategic plan with the ambition of consolidating its distribution on the five continents, where it showcases the culture and values of France and the Francophonie.
As for RFI, the revival of its audiences is a priority by developing FM broadcasting, but also broadcasting on new media. It will also be necessary to adapt the language policy to the geopolitical developments of the world, in particular by developing the priority languages for the group. This is the thrust of the overall modernization plan currently under way.
A few words about this. As I know from your interventions, the in-depth reform undertaken by the RFI executives is painful and that is why I am committed to ensuring that every RFI employee is supported in this difficult period. But, and I believe that today everyone agrees, this reform is essential to the survival of society, which is going through a profound existential crisis, and it has been delayed for too long.
However, I want to tell you that, despite the difficulties encountered, the reform is progressing. The consultation process of the works council is now complete, and on 28 October the period of voluntary departures was opened, which will last a month and should make it possible to limit or avoid dismissals by appointment. The relaunch of RFI must now be implemented from the beginning of 2010, it is a requirement that we must all carry together.
Finally, with regard to the political steering of the external audiovisual sector, I have understood that this is a subject that is the subject of many questions. Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE called for a «clarification» of this steering. I want to repeat it: it is known and already operating. From an administrative point of view, the Media Development Directorate is responsible for overseeing the AEF. For this specific mission, the DDM reports to the Prime Minister’s Office. From a political point of view now, it is equally clear that this is where pilotage is exercised. The various ministries concerned by the external audiovisual, be it Foreign and European Affairs, the Economy, the Budget, or Culture and Communication, meet in Matignon in interdepartmental meetings to discuss and arbitrate the main strategic orientations of the AEF.
This very controlled operation allows us not to reproduce the mistakes of the past by resurrecting for example the former Conseil Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (CAEF), which existed from 1989 to 1996, a structure, we must admit, which has not proved its worth. Today what must guide us is efficiency, it is the concern for a reactive steering, adapted to this tool that was sorely lacking and that the reform has put in place: the holding Audiovisual exterior of France.
- The second major reform to be pursued is the reform of public television.
The progressive abolition of advertising on the national services of France Télévisions, which frees public television from the pressure of commercial audiences, as well as the renovation of its organization into a joint venture, give the group the means for its editorial ambition, as the President of the Republic called it.
The State has given France Télévisions a new set of specifications that sets out its public service obligations: public television, strong in its values, must now develop an ambitious range of programming, in terms of culture, knowledge and creation for all audiences – especially youth.
As provided for in the law of 5 March 2009, the draft amendment to the contract of objectives and means (COM) for the period 2009-2012 was forwarded to the parliamentary committees responsible for cultural affairs and finance for their opinions. As they will see, the economic model of France Télévisions has been completely revised and, of course, the finance bill takes that into account.
The PLF plans to provide a total of €2550.1 million in 2010 for France Télévisions. To the allocation of €2,092.2 million from the contribution to the public audiovisual sector (former audiovisual licence), up 2.6% in accordance with COM 2007-2010, is added an allocation of €457.9 million from the general budget, up 1.75% compared to the original 2009 finance law. The latter allocation is intended to provide additional public funding to the company as a result of commercial losses caused by the elimination of evening advertising.
For 2009, I would also like to point out that the budget allocation initially planned has been reviewed in the light of the own resources made available by France Télévisions. On 15 October, the State paid €415 million to the public service. This adjustment of the budget subsidy in relation to advertising revenue is, contrary to what some would have us believe, that there is no link of appropriation between the taxes created by the law of 5 March 2009 and the financing of France Télévisions.
On this subject, and in answer to Christian KERT’s question, I find it premature to vote today for a reduction or a moratorium on the tax on advertising. Certainly the revenues of the large private channels are down in the first half of 2009 and I am aware that all the operators that contribute to the financing of audiovisual and film creation are doing well, but let’s wait to see the actual results at the end of the year, before we decide on a possible adjustment of the system put in place at the beginning of the year.
Everyone can legitimately welcome the new funding model of France Télévisions. The public service now has the means to fulfil its ambitions. The reform launched by the President of the Republic brings him a certain serenity, in a difficult economic and advertising context.
– Third priority: reaffirmed support for audiovisual creation.
With regard to the obligations to finance audiovisual production by television channels, the role of public broadcasting has been strengthened by the reform of advertising. In 2010, France Télévisions will contribute €385 million to the financing of audiovisual creation and by 2012 this amount will be increased to €420 million, or 20% of its turnover. In addition, the modernization of the so-called «Tasca» decrees for all private channels has been added. Also, since this year the production obligations of the historical channels have been consolidated and focused on heritage works (fiction, documentary, cartoon, live performance and video-music). From now on, and as early as next year, it is the specialty channels and those of the TNT that will also contribute to the financing of cultural diversity on the antennas as provided for in the agreements they have just signed with producers and authors' societies. This is an important relay for the support of the sector that will be set up. I welcome this because I agree with Christian KERT that the situation of some production companies is difficult because of the decline in sales of the historical chains. I will therefore be very attentive in 2010 to respect the commitments made by all parties in support of audiovisual creation.
Regarding the National Audiovisual Institute, whose role in preserving our audiovisual memory is so valuable and still as dynamic, and I would like to welcome it here again, its budget allocation will increase by 1.2% or €1 million compared to 2009. We are negotiating the next contract of objectives and means for the period 2010-2014 and it is in this context that additional financing will be specified according to the development and investment prospects of the INA. Moreover, and in response to Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE, I wanted to propose within the framework of the Juppé-Rocard Commission for the Great Loan that significant financial resources be allocated to the digitization of our audiovisual heritage, just as we will have to invest massively to digitize the exceptional collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and those of our film heritage.
- The fourth point I would like to make about the audiovisual budget is the transition to digital television.
The transition to all-digital television is one of the major challenges we have to face in the coming years. Its benefits are now known: it will allow first of all to complete the coverage of the territory by DTT, and thus to multiply by 3, with 18 free national channels, the offer of television services broadcast over terrestrial.
For the majority of our fellow citizens who receive television via a conventional rake antenna and wish to continue to benefit from free television, the operation of equipment to receive DTT channels is, in most cases, simple and inexpensive (the price of an entry-level DTT adapter is now less than €30). It could nevertheless present difficulties for some viewers, especially the older ones, or the smaller households.
Aware of this challenge and determined to allow the transition to all-digital television for everyone and for everyone in good conditions, the Government has released significant resources (€277 million over the period 2009 - 2011), in order to finance a national information campaign for the benefit of the entire population and an aid fund for the benefit of the poorest households and those who will not be covered by DTT after the end of analog broadcasting. To answer Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE and the questions of many parliamentarians, The Prime Minister has decided that additional funding will be provided over the next two years in order to finance the acquisition of satellite equipment for all households that will be in a dark zone during the transition to digital. The aid is for an additional €56 million. Thus, 100% of our citizens will benefit from digital television, whether it is broadcast over the air or by satellite.
In total, €333 million in credits will be used to finance, with the help of historic television channels, all of the communications and support operations undertaken by the Groupement d'intérêt public «France télé numérique», responsible for the implementation of these operations. None of our fellow citizens will be forgotten to have access to digital television for all.
- Fifth and final point: pluralism.
We will have the opportunity to discuss this next week when we consider the bill to regulate concentration in the media sector presented by the Socialist Group. But I wanted to answer the questions of a number of you.
The need to safeguard the pluralism of thought and opinion is clearly «one of the conditions of our democracy» and this is, in law, an «objective of constitutional value», as the Constitutional Council regularly recalls. The legislator has therefore defined, in the laws relating to the press and freedom of communication, a set of rules limiting concentration and ensuring the independence of the media. These rules have worked well, because they have enabled France to create media groups of European and global size while preserving the plurality of actors that constitutes their value. We can hope that the French groups will have a greater international presence, and I share the concern expressed by Patrice MARTIN-LALANDE, but I do not think that the antiThe Law of 30 September 1986 on freedom of communication is a brake on this development. These are, above all, the industrial strategies that our media companies adopt – or not. As far as the French market is concerned, it is important that, alongside large groups, smaller companies can coexist, but equally important for the dynamism of the sector. I am thinking, for example, of audiovisual and cinematographic production, where regulations prohibit vertical concentration and allow its financing to be largely provided by broadcasters, thanks to the production obligations we have just strengthened by extending them to all television channels.
However, I concede that, for the radio sector, we can still question the relevance today of a device conceived and enshrined in law since 1994 and which has not evolved since. The report that the Prime Minister had commissioned from Marc TESSIER on the development of digital radio will allow the government to reflect on this issue. While we must obviously preserve the richness of the national radio landscape and its diversity in all French regions, we may also wish to see its actors continue their development without being hindered by rules that have become obsolete.
Finally, one area in which I fully share Christian KERT’s concerns is that of local television. They have not found in France the development they are experiencing in other major countries. Often backed by the regional press groups that are experiencing the difficulties we know, many of them are in very critical situations when they have not simply ceased their activity. I am concerned about their future, for the contribution they make to the pluralism of information and for the role they play as a local media that ensures social ties in our regions. I therefore fully support Christian KERT’s proposal to see the National Assembly carry out a specific mission on their economic model and their future.
That is what I wanted to say to you in order to answer your questions and to outline with you the challenges, the problems and the issues that concern the world of the press and the audiovisual industry. To tell you about the State’s efforts to support, encourage and accompany all these actors in their mission, whatever the support they choose or the profession they exercise: to make our democracy fully alive.
Thank you.