The President of the Republic, in the presence of Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy, Finance and Recovery, and Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture, met on Thursday, August 27, with members of the Alliance de la Presse d'Information Générale.
The press sector has been particularly vulnerable in recent months. To the health crisis was added the distribution of the printed press sold at the issue.
Emergency measures have been put in place to guarantee the continuity of press distribution and support the most impacted actors (newspaper dealers, ultramarine titles, publishers). Included in the Amending Finance Law (passed on 30 July 2020), they represent €106 million and are in addition to the cross-cutting measures across the economy to which the sector’s players have also used.
But the challenge is also to consolidate the future of the press, which is facing the more structural crisis of its model. This is why the State wanted to put in place an ambitious industry plan, endowed with €377 million over the next two years. This recovery plan aims to support the sector’s ecological and digital transitions, but also to reaffirm the State’s commitment to a free, independent and pluralistic press, a vital issue for our democracy.
This long-term path requires massive investment support. As a result, the Strategic Fund for Press Development will be significantly increased for a total of €50 million and a plan for the transformation of printing houses will be implemented to the tune of €18 million per year.
In order to defend the pluralism of the press, it was decided to introduce a tax credit for political and general press subscriptions (at an annual cost of €60m for public finances) and create two new pluralism supports for online press services and overseas titles.
In order to accompany the construction of a sustainable economic model for the future, the State will continue to be committed, at national and European level, for the proper application of neighbouring law to press publishers and for better regulation of the online advertising market.
Finally, environmental and social issues must be at the heart of this transformation. Specific funds will be set up to support the ecological transition of the press and to reduce the precariousness in the sector.
This recovery plan should enable the press to cope with the current crisis while preparing for its future. It will involve the full commitment of all stakeholders in the sector.
I. Emergency measures of €106 million in 2020 (in addition to cross-cutting measures)
Since the beginning of the crisis, actors in the sector have benefited from cross-cutting measures to support the economy such as the State-guaranteed loan (PGE) or the solidarity fund. Treasury loans and bank guarantees from IFCIC (Institut du Financement du Cinéma et des Industries Culturelles), whose resources have been strengthened (€105 million for all media and cultural industries) and whose tools have been opened to all press titles, have also been mobilized.
2020 was also marked for the press sector by the Presstalis messaging crisis, which coincided with the health crisis linked to the Covid-19 epidemic.
The State has thus made every effort to guarantee the continuity of press distribution. First, by allowing newspaper dealers to remain open, as businesses essential to the life of the Nation, then by providing large-scale financial support (€76 million) to ensure the continuation of the activity of Presstalis until 1er July 2020, finally, by making advances on the 2020 grants to the recipients of press aid.
In addition, emergency measures were adopted in the amending finance law in July 2020 to support the most fragile actors in the sector to the tune of €30 million: an aid to support newspaper dealers, central actors of democracy and territorial cohesion
(€19 million) ; aid for the publishers of political and general information (IPG) most vulnerable by the liquidation of Presstalis (€8 million) and aid for overseas IPG securities (€3 million).
II. A recovery plan for the press, with €377 million until 2022, structured in 5 axes
The recovery plan complements this support to accompany the structural transformation of the sector in the digital age around 5 axes:
1. Encourage subscription and strengthen support for pluralism
- A tax credit for subscriptions to the political and general news press is introduced to provide new subscribers with a 30% tax reduction on the amount of the subscription. This measure, with an estimated annual cost of €60 million, is intended to reconstitute the readership of press titles, whose subscription revenues represent the most sustainable resources.
- In addition to the existing aid for pluralism reserved for paper titles, permanent aid will be introduced for online press services for political and general information, to the tune of €4 million per year.
- Permanent support will be created specifically for ultramarine press titles, to the tune of €2 million per year, starting in 2021.
2. Supporting Industrial Reform and the Green Transition of the Printing Industry
- The Regional Press Printing Transformation Fund will be endowed with €18 million per year, to enable industrial structures to adapt to the continued decline in flows.
- €5m have already been voted in amending finance laws to start it.
- An ecological transition fund (€8 million per year) is set up to finance multi-actor investment projects to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint and to support the end of the eco-friendlyIn-kind contribution from publishers today.
3. Overhaul the distribution chain.
- The restructuring of Presstalis has resulted in the partial takeover of its business by the national daily political and general information, sole shareholders of France Messagerie. The State provided €80 million in financing to start up the distribution company, cover its cash flow needs and enable the company to complete its restructuring. It is now up to publishers to ensure the viability of their distribution tool.
- The postal transport of the press, which has become unsustainable due to the erosion of volumes, must also be reformed, by a better articulation between port and postage.
- Finally, the amount of aid for the modernization of press broadcasters will be doubled (+ €6 million/ year) This measure should enable the network to strengthen its attractiveness and better meet the expectations of readers. It also aims to strengthen the cohesion of the territories in view of the major role that newspaper dealers play at the local level.
4. Transform economic models and encourage innovation.
- The Strategic Fund for Press Development of the Ministry of Culture (initially endowed with €16.5 million), a tool well known to the sector, unique in Europe, which makes it possible to subsidize the capital expenditure of publishers and news agencies, has its credits subscribed to the tune of €25 million per year, at the same time as a process of simplification of procedures has been initiated and concerted with the sector. €5 million have already been voted in the amending finance law for 2020.
- A fund to combat precariousness, endowed with €18 million per year, will also be set up to support the most fragile actors in the profession (freelancers, photojournalists, press designers, etc.) in this period of transformation.
5. Making the conditions of competition more level with digital platforms, on which the preservation of press advertising revenues depends
- Establishing a neighbouring right for publishers and news agencies
By adopting Law No. 2019-775 of 24 July 2019, France was the first country to transpose the Copyright and Related Rights Directive of 17 April 2019 into its national law. The aim of this conference is to establish the conditions for a balanced negotiation between publishers and news agencies on the one hand and digital platforms on the other in order to redefine, in favour of publishers and news agencies, the sharing of value among these actors. It gives publishers and news agencies the right to authorize or prohibit the reproduction of their publications by digital platforms.
France is now particularly vigilant to the proper application of the new legislation on neighbouring law.
- Regulating the dominance of internet giants in the digital advertising market
The concentration of advertising revenues in the hands of increasingly powerful digital players threatens the sustainability of traditional media, and thus ultimately citizens' access to varied sources of information, essential to democratic debate and cultural diversity.
In this context, it seems essential to rethink advertising regulation in the digital age. An inter-ministerial mission was launched to analyse and highlight the impacts of the major developments underway in the digital advertising sector. This mission, whose report is expected in autumn 2020, will also propose to the Government ways to review the regulation of this sector, both at national and European level.
In total, in addition to the strengthening of IFCIC and transversal measures, €483 million has been mobilized to support the sector (€106 million for emergency aid mobilized in 2020 and €377 million for 2020-2022 stimulus measures). They will help the print media to develop new models essential to the quality of democratic debate in the age of social networks and information manipulation. This support will be in addition to existing support schemes, which in 2020 represent more than €840 million.
In return for this substantial support, the State expects the press publishers to be exemplary in terms of ecological transition, parity and diversity, but also in the fight against the precariousness of the most fragile professions in the sector (freelancers, photojournalists, local press correspondents, peddlers, etc.).