Journalists Challenge European Commission Over Media Concentration in France

The European Federation of Journalists today joined French journalists and media workers in protests over media concentration in France which “threatens pluralism and diversity.” The EFJ and French journalists and media unions want the European Union to act to combat cross-ownership and concentration.

“There is a danger that France will follow Italy into conditions that are dangerous for democracy – when media power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few,” said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary.

The EFJ says that a new level of concentration took place in June when the Dassault conglomerate took over a majority of shares of the leading press company Socpresse. Last week, the leading French private broadcaster TF1 (and part of public works company Bouygues) announced that it wishes to participate in this conglomerate as well.

“This is very bad news for media diversity and for the independence of French media", said White. “We fully support our colleagues in their fight for pluralism.”

Last month, the European Commission allowed the industrial conglomerate of Mr. Marcel Dassault (GIMD) to buy up to 82% of shares in Socpresse, a publisher of 70 French newspapers, including Le Figaro and L’Express. GIMD is primarily a weapon and aeronautic manufactory. Mr. Dassault’s family is close to the French ruling coalition. His son is a member of Parliament. France’s other leading media company is Lagardère-Hachette, which is part of the Lagardère conglomerate, another major weapon manufacturer. Socpresse and Lagardère together own over 70% of the French press.

"Cross-media ownership has dramatic consequences for cultural diversity and for independent journalism. Despite promises to the contrary, it is unlikely that an alliance of a leading press company and a television group controlling more than 50% of the advertising market can guarantee editorial independence," said White. "Moreover, the alliance creates a dominant position in the advertising sector and raises ethical questions about the proximity of weapons and public works companies – generally supported by public funds - and control of media".

The EFJ says the European Commission should reconsider the case of the alliance between Socpresse and TF1 under competition rules. “There are more questions to be asked here other than whether or not this alliance is good for business,” said White. “More importantly, is it good for democracy?”

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The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in more than 30 countries