Taking the example of the BBC… is this really a good idea?

Since this morning, Radio France has swapped its broadcasts for musical playlists. For its TV programming, France Info has, for its part, opted for rebroadcasts. This Thursday and Friday, the France Télévisions inter-union association – in agreement with the inter-union associations of the National Audiovisual Institute (INA), Radio France and France Media Monde – in fact called on all employees to “stand mobilize against public broadcasting restructuring projects.” The mobilization promises to be massive.

In the viewfinder? The merger project defended by the Minister of Culture, Rachida Dati, whose examination of the text was postponed until June in the National Assembly. If it is adopted, it will be the creation of an audiovisual juggernaut, a holding company called “France Médias”, therefore comprising France Télévisions, Radio France, INA and France Médias Monde. A project deemed “demagogic, ineffective and dangerous”, according to a column published in The world this Wednesday and signed by 1,100 Radio France employees. “The markets, uses, production models of public service television and radio are not the same”, criticize the signatories who see in the future “an impoverishment of the editorial line” and a greater risk of political pressure “under one and the same leadership”.

A British group in crisis

Among the fears of public broadcasting actors, that of becoming a French-style BBC, an example “brandished at every turn by the promoters of the merger”, continues the column which underlines the more than negative results of the channel English public. In a context of economic crisis in the United Kingdom, the BBC has been experiencing a long period of austerity for ten years, where funding is frozen despite inflation. Last April, the British public group announced the elimination of 1,800 positions, justifying a budget reduced by 30% between 2010 and 2020.

Behind these decisions, we find the British government and the “Royal Charter”, explains Simon Dawes, lecturer in British civilization and cultural and creative industries at the University of Versailles. “It is a document which decides the role and financing of the BBC over ten years”, he underlines, pointing out “a problem of independence”.

Merge everything, make everything disappear

Small subtlety here. The UK Government will never force job cuts. “But they say ‘there’s less money, so we have to do something’,” remarks Simon Dawes. Numerous reorganizations of services, as well as channels, have therefore been undertaken, often wreaking havoc on the broadcast schedules. “For example, they tried to invest in local channels and to do so they merged them. From now on, each local channel has a separate broadcast in the morning, merges in the afternoon and in the evening broadcasts national news,” Simon Dawes tries to explain to us.

Among these reorganizations, a British example bears a disturbing resemblance to the current situation on this side of the Channel… That of the merger of the BBC channel broadcast internationally with the traditional channel, giving more space to British news and leaving fall international. A foretaste of the future of France Media Monde, which brings together France 24, Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD)?

One foot in, one foot out in the merger project, its employees also fear losing their place of choice internationally. These channels “are a window of free information in many countries around the world, in a context where attacks on press freedom, manipulation and false information are increasing,” insists the article published Wednesday.

A very present Boris Johnson

In addition to these problems, the control of the British government has been repeatedly criticized within the BBC. During his mandate, Boris Johnson continued to wage war on the public channel. At the beginning of 2020, just before the health crisis linked to Covid-19, the former Prime Minister decided to boycott the show Today from the BBC, considered too negative. His ministers, too, were forbidden to go there. Until the day when defending its management of the crisis on a stage became necessary.

But if Boris Johnson and his supporters consider themselves to be despised by the public channel, his Labor opposition denounced in 2021 “conservative cronyism” within the BBC itself. Behind this network, Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former director of communications who, in his new role as a member of the BBC board, is said to have blocked the appointment of a potential editor-in-chief, Jess Brammar, deemed “too political “. “Besides, there are a lot of “revolving doors” [« un jeu de chaises musicales », en français] between BBC employees and the Conservatives,” notes lecturer Simon Dawes.

The latest case to date, Richard Sharp, former president of the BBC, announced his resignation in April 2023 after being involved in a conflict of interest affair at the time of his appointment. While working as a banker at Goldman Sachs, Richard Sharp helped Boris Johnson obtain a nice loan of around 800,000 pounds sterling, or 906,000 euros. A report then concluded that the rules on public appointments had been violated. The grass is definitely not greener across the Channel. It even raises fears of weeds for the future of French public broadcasting.

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