Dear Patrick Le Hyaric,

Mr President of the Alliance de la presse d'information générale, Mr Minister, dear Jean-Michel Baylet,

Dear Marc Feuillée, President of the Syndicat de la Presse Quotidien Nationale,

Dear Alain Augé, President of the Syndicat des éditeurs de la presse magazine,

Dear Laurent Bérard-Quélin,

Dear Jean-Pierre Roger,

Dear Sébastien Soriano, President of the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Économiques et des Postes,

Dear Laurence Franceschini,

Dear Fabrice Fries, President of Agence France Presse,

Ladies and gentlemen Presidents,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you for the first time for this traditional back-to-school event.

A pleasure, and an obvious one, as I have made supporting the press and defending its freedom one of my priorities.

Eleven months ago, the day after I took office, it was 100e anniversary of the National Union of Journalists that I have chosen to visit, for my first trip as a minister.

More recently, two of the four laws I have defended in Parliament have been devoted to the press.

The first, adopted on 24 July, led to the creation of a neighbouring right for publishers and news agencies.

The second modernizes the Bichet law on press distribution. It should be promulgated very quickly, with the joint committee on September 24.

The purpose of these laws, which I will come back to in a few moments, is to give your titles the means to inform us.

It is to guarantee their independence and that of your journalists.

It is to protect pluralism: pluralism of views, opinions, publications.

It is to allow the press to fulfill its mission.

That of confronting, cross-checking, contextualizing information.

To check, to decrypt, to explain.

Allow public debate to be based on proven facts.

This mission is a noble one.

Noble and more vital than ever, at a time of abundant content and modes of expression, at a time of social networks and the proliferation of infox.

Your profession is vital because there is no democracy without a free press.

If we are committed to democracy, then we must fight for the press.

You have to fight for your freedom.

It is not enough to say it.

It is not enough to defend it every other day, or only when it suits us.

It must be defended constantly, viscerally, relentlessly.

That is what I have been doing for almost a year.

And I will continue.

Supporting the press means defending a modern and effective regulatory framework.

It is about making sure that everyone is on a level playing field.

It is protecting, without preventing innovation. By accompanying adaptation to new uses and new players. 

That’s what we’ve done, with neighbouring law for news agencies and publishers.
The value you create is now being consumed by platforms and search engines, which reuse your content without remunerating it, even though it generates significant advertising revenues.

The purpose of neighbouring law is to ensure fair value sharing.

To rebalance it for the benefit of companies and news agencies, but also journalists.

Allow you to receive compensation for each reuse of your content.

We are thus putting an end to the organized pillaging of content by those who do not produce it.

France is the first European country to transpose the copyright directive on this subject.

And we can be proud of that.

This is proof that our country has not a second to lose to protect its press.

If we are the first, if we can today send this strong sign to Europe, it is thanks to the constructive spirit that we have shown collectively.

The bill was initiated by a Socialist Senator, David Assouline, then registered by the MoDem group in its niche by Deputy Patrick Mignola.

Both Houses of Parliament have worked together with the Government in the service of the general interest.

I want to thank them for that.

Thank them for their pragmatism.

Thank them for being able to break free of partisan affiliations, for having made the general interest prevail in the service of pluralism.

Nevertheless, it is not quite over.

We still have to negotiate fair compensation from digital players.

In this new stage, the unity of the French press will be decisive.

Because platforms will have every interest in dividing you.

This is not a view of the mind: this is precisely what happened in Germany and Spain.

Those who believe they can go to the negotiations with them in a scattered order are deluded.

It would be a political mistake and a strategic mistake.

I cannot imagine that such blindness would nullify the efforts made for months, first to obtain the directive and then to transpose it into French law.

Then I’m counting on your unit.

I count on your solidarity.

And I count on your team spirit, in the service of the general interest and the defense of pluralism.

We’re gonna need it.

Supporting press regulation is also what we have done with the reform of the Bichet law.

Many thought it impossible to lead.

But we have worked for a broad consensus.

I want to commend the fruitful debates and the work done in committees and sittings, in the Senate and then in the National Assembly.

Parliamentary proceedings have made it possible to clarify, clarify, and make more readable the original legislative text.

Thus, the text adopted at first reading significantly modernizes the distribution of the press at issue, without breaking the gains of the current system.

It establishes a new, independent, coherent and strengthened regulatory framework.

It gives newspaper merchants more responsibility to choose the titles they receive, while preserving the fundamentals.

Political and general information retain an absolute right of access to the distribution network

CPPAP titles are distributed as part of an assortment, defined by interprofessional agreement.

For other titles, the broadcaster’s opinion will make it possible to better value the titles most likely to meet the interest of readers.

It extends the fundamental principles of the Bichet law to kiosks and digital aggregators.

And finally, it guarantees the continuity of press distribution, giving the two main current messengers sufficient time to adapt before the eventual arrival of new distribution companies.

The possibility for ARCEP to issue approvals to players other than the two current carriers will only be possible after a transition phase.

I hope that the joint committee, which will be held on 24 September, will be conclusive, which will allow a rapid enactment of the law.

However, I appeal to the responsibility of the actors:

Until the law comes into force and the sector’s regulation is transferred to ARCEP, the current regulation must continue to play its role.

With particular regard to the situation of Presstalis:

Since the conciliation procedure approved in March 2018 by the Paris Commercial Court, the new management has carried out a remarkable work of recovery.

Michèle Benbunan undertook a major and unprecedented transformation of the structure.

I especially want to pay tribute to his energy and commitment.

His efforts must not have been in vain. They must absolutely be continued.

They will be accompanied by the State, and they must be accompanied by the whole sector.

The draft finance law for 2020 will, as agreed, transfer for the second consecutive year the €9 million from the strategic fund to support the modernization of the national daily press, donated to Presstalis, to consolidate its short-term situation. At the same time, the search for lasting solutions to the difficulties of messaging continues.

I also appeal to the responsibility of press publishers. This distribution system is yours. It is up to you to ensure its sustainability!

Supporting the economic sustainability of the press is also what we have done by preserving and reforming the judicial and legal advertising regime.

During the preparatory work for the PACTE law, the legitimacy of the AJL was challenged.

We recalled:                                                                 

- Their usefulness for the transparency of local economic life;

- And their importance for many titles, including small titles that bring local information to life in rural areas.

We have been heard.

The reform that we have prepared, presented to Parliament by the Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire, allows us to preserve 250 million euros of turnover for the press, while substantially modernizing a device whose foundations were laid in 1955.

Because the counterpart of this preservation of judicial and legal announcements (AJL) is their modernization.

On this issue, it was illusory to imagine that the status quo was possible.

You understand that, and I’m glad you did.

The reform, carried out in close consultation with stakeholders, will enable online press services to request authorisation to publish legal announcements.

The implementing decree is being prepared. A IGAC/IGF mission is underway on tariffs.

Particular attention will be paid to the transition, so that the different actors have sufficient time to adapt to the new context.

Another subject of regulation is the adaptation of the rules applicable to television advertising as part of the audiovisual reform.

In this respect, I have heard your objections.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that the proposals made are balanced and responsible. They make it possible to modernize the rules applicable without any impact on the volume of advertising broadcast by television.

They follow a long consultation process.

They are based on an impact study that was presented to you in July.

I do not wish to allow advertising for promotional offers in the distribution sector.

This would destabilize the balance of the radio and press advertising market.

On the other hand, I want to allow segmented advertising on television in a very limited way.

In addition to being a real relay of growth and modernization for television, this opening will affect very little your companies.

It should enable television (as almost everywhere else in Europe) to better face the competition of digital players, and to better finance audiovisual and film creation, which are priorities in the same way as defending pluralism. We need national champions.

It will be very framed: the address of the seller will not be mentioned, the duration will be limited, the insertions will not take place in and around youth programs.

In addition, an impact study will be carried out a posteriori by the CSA.

Adjustments can be made after the consultation. As I said, I always listen to the stakeholders.

Protecting the press without preventing innovation, without delaying adaptations to changes in the expectations of the reader: this is what guides the action of public authorities on the sector for many years.

It is this vision that enabled the creation of the status of an online press service ten years ago.

On the occasion of this tenth anniversary, in order to take stock of this mechanism and to make proposals on its possible evolution, I will entrust to Laurence Franceschini, President of the CPPAP, a task of reflection on this subject.

I know there are some players who would like to see the “primarily written content” test, which is used to define the online press service by analogy to print, dropped.

A broad consultation with all stakeholders will make it possible to raise all requests and help us adapt our legal tools to the new expectations of readers.

The conclusions will be given to me at the end of the year.

In 10 years, much progress has been made to ensure that the main elements of the economic regime of the press are fully benefiting online press services:

- Access to the Strategic Press Development Fund,

- Super reduced rate VAT,

- Creation of support for emergence,

- Individual shareholder support (Charb amendment, etc.),

- Access to judicial and legal announcements starting next year.

However, this progress is not complete in the area of aid for pluralism.

Work has been ongoing for several months.

The subject is technically complex and requires a thorough education.

I have asked my teams to propose to me by the end of the year a device that could meet this need that could be implemented quickly.

However, supporting the press is not just about ensuring its economic sustainability.

It also guarantees the conditions for the exercise of his freedom.

Including:

- By protecting the 1881 Act;

- And by maintaining the bond of trust between the French and the media.

Yes, defending freedom of the press means protecting the 1881 law, which guarantees freedom of expression.

Social networks allow for abuse.

That is a fact.

It is undeniable that we must provide a specific response to offences of insult and defamation, when they are carried out on the internet.

This is the meaning of Laetitia Avia’s bill, adopted this summer.

But is it necessary to remove the insult and defamation of the 1881 law and its specific procedural regime?

The Government is not in favour.

The Prime Minister had the opportunity to express this with the greatest clarity by bringing together representatives of publishers and journalists in July to reaffirm his deep commitment to defending press freedom.

Making digital platforms more accountable and strengthening their duty to cooperate with public authorities is a satisfactory answer.

Not change the 1881 law.

This law is a whole: it proclaims a freedom, it organizes a protective procedural framework, it allows the repression of its abuses.

It is that balance that is the basis of it.

We must maintain that balance.

Defending press freedom, allowing journalists to be able to inform, also means ensuring that citizens have confidence in their media.

That trust has never been lower.

As I have already said, I am convinced that the creation of an information ethics board could help reverse the trend; to re-establish the bond of trust between the media and the French.

A legitimate and useful reflection, both on the profession and on our democracy, was conducted on this subject by Emmanuel Hoog.

I see him among us and I greet him!

Such a body already exists in a number of our neighbours.

Its creation is recommended by several international organizations, such as UNESCO and the OSCE.

The majority of Canadians support it.

I hear the reluctance, sometimes the criticism, of some of the profession.

Those who feel that this is a false trail cannot remain a wait-and-see attitude. They must propose.

I also don’t think that Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, or Great Britain—all of which have such a council—are cheap democracies where press freedom would be threatened. 

I would also like to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that an ethics body cannot and will not be a “Council of Order”.

It would not be intended to impose sanctions – such as the Council of the College of Physicians – but only to issue opinions.

Moreover, it is not up to the State to create such a body, even if it can accompany it.

It is up to the profession alone to organize.

A process has been initiated by the Observatory of Professional Ethics for Journalists, which is to be welcomed.

I support this initiative.

And I hope that it will lead to the creation of such a council in the coming months.

We must also look at the other initiatives of professionals in this field and support them in one way or another.

I am thinking, for example, of the “Journalism trust initiative”, a media self-regulation initiative launched by RSF and its partners, which aims to combat online disinformation.

As you know, I always listen to the professionals and I am ready to support initiatives that are consistent with the main objectives I mentioned.

By modernizing regulation and defending press freedom, the Government supports your sector. 

However, it also has a number of responsibilities.

Because if the press has rights, it also has duties.

Among other things, it has an environmental responsibility.

Protection of the environment and sustainable development concern us all.

These are concerns that must irrigate and guide all our public policies.

The Government makes it its priority, and it is necessary for everyone to take part in the ecological transition.

However, the objectives must be realistic and take into account the economic realities of each sector.

Regarding yours, important decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks.

I am thinking of the circular economy bill, which provides for the extinction of the possibility for newspaper publishers to contribute in kind in 2023.

You sent us new legal analyses, which we shared with the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition. The point will be re-examined. In any case, if this reading were confirmed, alternative mechanisms would have to be considered.

I am also thinking of a more immediate regulatory measure concerning the use of mineral oils in inks.

You know that this use poses a serious public health problem that we cannot ignore.

We must find alternative solutions.

On all these issues, we are listening to your comments and suggestions.

Intensive exchanges took place during the summer between my services, those of the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, and the teams of organizations that represent you.

They will continue in the coming weeks.

I will ensure that the decisions made are sustainable for your businesses.

Rest assured.

The press also has a duty to set an example.

That is the purpose of framework agreements.

A quarter of them have already been signed.

All of it has to be done by the end of the year.

My teams are redoubling their efforts to keep this goal in line with you.

I will be particularly vigilant about photojournalism.

I just got back from the Visa pour l'image festival in Perpignan.

I measured on the ground the unwavering commitment of photojournalists to witness the march of the world.

Their work deserves our respect and, I say very calmly and very firmly, the cash optimization practices that are carried out on the backs of the weakest are unacceptable.

The Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention has implemented its power to sanction securities that do not comply with the legislative provisions on payment deadlines.

I hope that the steps we are taking will put an end to illegal practices.

I hope the process will be concluded soon.

Everything must be signed before the next publishers' conference; the names of the signatories will be published on this occasion.

My teams will approach you in the next few days to finalize the negotiations and define the signing schedule.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would now like to say a word about the 2020 budget for press aid.

It is stable compared to 2019.

The specific amounts will be announced at the time of the Finance Bill 2020 press conference on September 25.

In the current budgetary context, in which there is a great deal of pressure on public finances, maintaining aid is a considerable effort.

- Support for pluralism will be preserved.

- Support for dissemination will also be provided.

After two years of sharp cuts in support for portage, we have chosen to consolidate this support in the 2020 finance bill.

More generally, on support for porting, I know that you have made requests to extend the mechanisms that currently apply only to publishers to porting networks; we are working on that with the Minister of Action and Public Accounts.

- Aid for modernization will be strengthened.

As for the pipeline plan: I will have the opportunity to detail with the Minister of Economy and Finance our responses to your requests.

Several of them have already been considered. These include:

- The creation of neighbouring rights for press publishers,

- The reform of the Bichet law,

- Easier opening of “press” departments in the territory,

- Or funding mechanisms complementing the Strategic Press Development Fund (FSDP), I am thinking in particular of IFCIC’s guarantee and repayable advance arrangements.

Others will require additional expertise such as:

- Changes in distribution support arrangements,

- The relaxation of certain eligibility rules for the FSDP, and the special situation of overseas securities,

- Or the transformation plan for the printing network,

On this subject, the data used to document the reality of the need have recently been sent to us by your teams.

We will continue to work together in the coming weeks.

Supporting the press is both:

- Support the entire sector (this is the meaning of the sector plan),

- Support the titles individually (this is the meaning of press aids),

- And support structuring actors working for the entire sector.

Investing in these major systemic actors obviously benefits them…

But it also benefits all their customers – you.

This applies to the collection of information, upstream of your titles: this is support for AFP.

This also applies to the distribution of your publications throughout the country: this is the question of postal distribution.

Regarding Agence France presse, first:

The transformation plan presented by its President Fabrice Fries – he is here tonight and I welcome him – this transformation plan is indispensable.

By defining image and video as priority sources of growth, it should enable the Agency, the French information champion, to project itself towards the future.

The State fully supports this plan, with exceptional funding of €17 million over two years.

Concerning the postal file, then:

The tariff framework defined for the years 2016-2020 ensured the distribution of the press by the postal service.

It is important today to prepare for the future.

To do this, I will entrust with the Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire a mission to Mr. Emmanuel Giannesini, Master Adviser to the Court of Auditors, and to an Inspector General of Finance, whose name will soon be communicated to you, to propose the framework for action in the coming years.

The impact on public spending must remain under control.

It will have to take into account the decline in volumes and the economic balances of the postal operator.

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are my messages to you tonight.

This is the resolute action I have been taking for almost a year and will continue to take, to protect, support, and tirelessly defend the press and its freedom.

A freedom that Victor Hugo said is “no less sacred, no less essential than universal suffrage.”

“The day when [...] we would see the freedom of the press diminish [...],” he added, “would be […] in the whole of civilization the effect of a torch going out!”

This torch, we will not let it die.

You can rest assured.