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France26 June 2008

Sarkozy wants public television chief to be appointed by government

Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement yesterday that he wants the president of the French public TV broadcaster France Télévisions to be appointed in future by the government after consultation with parliament and the Higher Council for Broadcasting (CSA).

“The decision that the president of France Télévisions should henceforth be appointed by the cabinet is very disturbing and runs counter to all the measures taken in the European Union and elsewhere to offer more guarantees of independence to the public media,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We have been talking of public service media rather than state media for the past 30 years at least in France,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “President Sarkozy’s decision will again give the government the ability to control the editorial policies of the public media. This is unacceptable in 2008 in a country such as France.

“Prior consultation with the CSA and parliament is not a sufficient safeguard. The current method of appointment is not perfect and does not offer all the necessary guarantees, but the method announced by President Sarkozy is a move in the wrong direction. There is still a need to give the public media greater independence.

“A presenter on the public radio station France Inter this morning announced ‘Welcome to the studios of ORTF,’ referring ironically to the state broadcaster that was replaced in 1974. Public service journalist are right to be concerned, and to protest. Their independence and their ability to maintain control of editorial policies is at stake. The public should also be firm in its support for the independence of French public broadcasting.”

Sarkozy made his comments yesterday when receiving a parliamentary commission’s report on the new public television. He said he would like the president of France Télévisions to be “appointed by the executive after obtaining the CSA’s agreement and subject to a qualified majority of parliamentarians not objecting.”

The president of France Télévisions is currently appointed by the CSA. The parliamentary commission proposed allowing the public service’s board of governors to choose their own president.

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