A growing number of observers are calling for France’s public media to be regrouped – like the BBC in the UK. This comes forty years after a similar institution -- the ORTF -- was disbanded, mainly because of its lack of independence from the French government.
Several observers and think tanks have said this is the right way to go, in order for France Televisions, Radio France, the National Archives Institute (INA) and FMM to maximize their strengths.
Terra nova, a Socialist Party think tank, has suggested the creation of a common digital structure for all of France’s public broadcasters. The group's memo says ‘The merger of all French public media, like in many European countries, should no longer be seen as a taboo.’
Just think: synergies, economies of scale, mutualized budgets… The idea sounds tempting, especially for the accountants at the French Finance Ministry. They have made the budget performance of public services a priority. But the reality may be less appetizing for those of us who work here.
The Schwartz Report on the future of France Television says the government must examine the benefits of bringing public broadcasters together towards the common goal of ever closer collaboration. But the prospect of an all-out merger of the various arms of state broadcasters is a scary one. We know this from the damage caused by similar projects at France Télévisions and France Médias Monde.
Disastrous redundancy schemes... Fantastical ways of creating income… Synergies that don't really work… The fiasco of the "harmonisation sociale" -- trying to bring France 24, RFI and MCD to similar contractual terms and conditions… The merger of AEF in 2012 was a painful one, and three years later there is little sign of the concrete reality of harmonisation sociale. It’s not enough to just decide something for it to happen – the money needs to be there too!
One main question we have is: How much wiggle room is there? Especially when it comes to the budget? Will the government give our directors what they need to carry out this kind of major reform?
Experience shows that jobs are, more often than not, the variable when we talk about fixed-budget reforms like these.
A France Televisions news channel?
The new president of France Television seems particularly interested in one of the many recommendations made for the future -- the creation of a France Televisions 24-hour news channel.
Delphine Ernotte has already announced plans to move forward with francetv.info, a digital platform already put in place by her predecessor, and to make it a priority. She's hoping to use local, national and international France Television newsrooms and to develop the project alongside France 24.
Delphine Ernotte has underlined the Schwartz report's findings that "all development projects in the sector need to have close cooperation with France Médias Monde and France 24. Regardless of how it is done, it must not lead to the creation of a new channel, separate from those of other public broadcasters."
These projects need to be looked at very closely as they could bring with them great risk and uncertainty for France Médias Monde and its employees.
The lack of a clear strategy and the amateur nature that reigned over the merger of the former AEF does little to reassure us that the government and the public broadcasting bosses are capable of coming up with an ambitious, coherent and long-lasting project, showing real concern for the future of the staff of the different state-run media.