Le Monde | • Updated | By
The Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA) has authorized, Thursday, December 17, the passage on free DTT channel LCI (TF1), whose distribution could begin early 2016. It rejected, however, requests for Paris Première (M6) and Planète + (Canal + Group), which therefore continue to be broadcast on pay DTT.
This decision is a reversal from that of July 2014, when the CSA had spurned the same three channels, not to weaken the other players in the free DTT, 25 channels high. In June 2015, the State Council had retoqué that decision, asking the CSA to reconsider things.
However, and this is the meaning of the decision of the CSA, the television market has changed in 18 months. The crisis of the advertising revenue is shallower. Competitors LCI, BFM TV and i-TV, are less fragile. The first, under the umbrella of NextRadioTV group, now allied with the powerful Patrick Drahi Altice Group, the owner of SFR. In the Canal + Group, the second advantage of the new ambitions of Vivendi and its president, Vincent Bolloré. According to the CSA, the arrival of free LCI could take at each of its channels from 0.2 to 0.4 points of audience.
“More economic future in ‘paying universe “
Another argument CSA ” found that the chain had no economic future in the world of pay-TV, and its free access contribute to pluralism and the public interest “, two criteria put forward by the State Council, which has refined the conditions under which a chain can have its broadcast mode changed by a simple decision of the CSA.
The fact that LCI does not have a distribution agreement on pay DTT beyond 31 December weighed heavily, as the skill of the TF1 group to offer this time a project is Front not to BFM-TV and i-TV. The new LCI and do not offer more than 30% of TV news in its schedule, for the benefit of formats more “magazine”. TF1 is also committed to not advertising couplings or cross promotions
Read also:. To switch to free, LCI presents anti BFM
But this decision of the CSA angered NextRadioTV. In the minute that followed the announcement of the CSA, the owner of BFM-TV group said in a scathing statement, that “no new legal or economic argument can justify this reversal” . In July 2014, TF1 screens showed the fury of its CEO, Nonce Paolini, while Alain Weill, head of NextRadioTV, relished. Thursday night, the roles were reversed in a singular reversal.
“The regulator, yielding the many external pressures, chose to build a historical dominant player [panel TF1] at the expense of a new entrant and interest for the viewer “, accusing the group of Alain Weill. It does not hesitate to speak of a “political dimension” , implying that seeks to reduce the influence of its leading channel, a year and a half of a presidential risky for the left in power. “It is incomprehensible or, alas, too legible, loose Mr. Weill. The CSA broke tonight chain that works. “
The case is not over, since NextRadioTV indicates that ” will examine the remedies that he will commit before the competent courts “ and “present from the beginning of the year, staff representatives, the measures that will be necessary, both in terms of organization of jobs. “ Mr. Weill had threatened to remove posts percent BFM-TV if free passage LCI. Questioned on this Thursday night, however, he tempers his speech: “We will look with our social partners how to prepare this difficult period, during which our costs are going to decrease. “
Read also: LCI free: BFM-TV threatens to remove 100 jobs
Other displeased: Nicolas de Tavernost, president of M6 group. Contacted by Le Monde after the refusal of the CSA to allow the free passage of Paris First, it speaks of a decision “unfair and unfounded” .
The CSA found that “special situations of Paris Première and Planète + did not justify derogations from the general requirement for a call for applications open” . That is to say, they were not going to die in the event of maintenance paid, and that the contribution in terms of pluralism was debatable in the case of LCI.
M. de Tavernost refutes this analysis, noting that “The Canal + group will stop distributing pay DTT” and the latter, dying, may take Paris Première in decline. He also announced an appeal to the State Council.
Despite the threat of these two remedies is a new landscape of television news that the French will discover. LCI will be the third news channel on DTT after i-Tele and BFM-TV, waiting for the possible launch of a public broadcaster France Télévisions in September 2016.
So these are potentially four news channels that could live together next fall, will begin when the presidential campaign. Is it too much? Alain Weill believes that the competitive intensity will be too strong and that these chains have limited means, ultimately weakening pluralism.
The CSA, for its part, protects itself by saying that for the public channel, “There is to date a declaration of intent” . “We have neither calendar nor specific project or clear option to the use of an input radio channel or in a second stage” , will be recalled. If the government chooses to preempt a channel for the future chain, the CSA will have to decide the value of this book to the public. But the argument of pluralism should still prevail.