Public policy in support of the written press is based on the reciprocal commitment of the State and press groups (or companies) around shared objectives of pluralism, modernisation and good professional practice. To reinforce this latter requirement, Article 1 of Decree No. 2012-484 of 13 April 2012 on the reform of press aid and the Strategic Fund for Press Development has created a framework convention between the State and the main groups (or companies) in the press. The benefit of the aid to the press is conditional on these publishers signing and complying with the framework agreements. Decree No. 2014-659 of 23 June 2014 reinforced the scope of the framework agreements by integrating a system of malus that accentuates the accountability of publishers who are the main beneficiaries of aid.
Who must sign the framework agreement?
Press groups (or companies) meeting one of the following conditions must sign a framework agreement:
- have received an average of more than EUR 1 million in aid over the last three calendar years;
- have received an amount of aid amounting to at least 20% of the turnover of the group or press company and exceeding €500,000 on an annual average over the last three calendar years;
- benefit during the calendar year from aid of more than EUR 1 million under the Strategic Press Development Fund.
How do I know if I have to sign a framework agreement?
Framework agreements are signed for three years.
Each year, the Directorate-General for Media and Cultural Industries establishes the total amount of aid received by press groups (or companies). It is based on the direct aid data it has distributed, as well as on the indirect aid data transmitted by the supporting structures.
On this basis, eligible press groups (or companies) are contacted by the Directorate-General for Media and Cultural Industries in order to provide the necessary elements for drawing up the framework agreement.
What are the objectives and content of the framework agreements?
The framework agreement aims to achieve greater efficiency in state support for each press group (or company) through a justification for public expenditure at the first euro, regular monitoring of assisted projects and better information for Parliament and the monitoring bodies.
The framework agreement is based on a policy note on the strategy of the press group (or company). This note sets out the economic, social and industrial context, the development strategy and the objectives pursued for the projects eligible for aid for the next three years.
The framework agreement lists the commitments of the group (or the company), which may include compliance with regulatory and contractual obligations or good professional practices, in particular social or environmental ones.
The framework agreement sets out the commitments of the State, if necessary subject to the vote by the Parliament of the finance law, the opinion of the committee of the strategic fund for the development of the press and the applicable regulations.
How can commitments under the framework agreements be monitored?
The framework convention lays down the methodological framework for its monitoring and evaluation, as well as the indicators and information necessary for its monitoring. At the end of each year, a report on the implementation of the agreement is drawn up and sent by the company to the DGMIC. An implementation report will be drawn up six months before the expiry of the framework agreement in order to prepare, if necessary, for its renewal.
In all cases, a final implementation report is drawn up by the group (or company) at the end of the framework agreement. These agreements may be subject to checks and evaluations.
What is the “malus” mechanism of framework agreements?
The “malus” mechanism is put in place to encourage groups or companies to respect the commitments made in the framework agreement. In fact, when it is found that a group (or an enterprise) concerned does not respect its commitments, it (or it) is, initially, contacted in order to submit its observations. The Minister responsible for communication may then give notice to comply with his or her obligations. At this stage, all aid to which the group (or company) is entitled continues to be paid.
On the other hand, if the group (or the undertaking) has not complied with the formal notice within one month, the Minister may then suspend with immediate effect the payment of a part of the amount of direct aid to which he (she) is eligible under the conditions laid down in the framework agreement. The suspension ends when the group (or company) has complied with the formal notice. Failing compliance within one year, payment of the part of the aid granted but not yet received may be cancelled.
The amount of aid suspended or cancelled must be proportionate to the seriousness of the facts and the situation of the group (or the undertaking). It may not exceed 30 % of the total annual amount of direct aid to which the group (or the undertaking) is eligible.
The reform of press aid in 2014 eliminated the subsidy scheme.