The French Council of State on Tuesday asked Arcom, the media regulator, to strengthen its control over the CNews news channel, run by conservative billionaire Vincent Bolloré, following a call from the NGO Reporters Without Borders.
The highest French administrative court “ordered Arcom to reexamine within six months the CNews channel’s compliance with its obligations regarding pluralism and independence of information,” according to a statement.
The decision comes after an appeal from the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which considers that CNews “is no longer a news channel, but has become an opinion medium”, which the interested party questions.
The secretary general of the NGO that defends press freedom, Christophe Deloire, celebrated a “historic decision of the Council of State” in favor of “democracy and journalism.” This “will undoubtedly change the situation and lead the audiovisual regulator to finally rise to the challenge.”
In a statement, Arcom maintained that “with this renewed interpretation of the 1986 law (on freedom of communication), the Council of State strengthens the regulator’s control capacity.”
A year ago, Roch-Olivier Maistre, president of the independent authority, estimated that CNews “strictly respects political pluralism” in general, although he considered that “it is closer to an ‘opinion’ channel in the style of American conservative television Fox News… The channel, for its part, did not react immediately.
A growing chain
On the podium of news channels, CNews is in second place in viewership behind BFMTV, but it is making progress. Its main headliners are Pascal Praud, Christine Kelly, Sonia Mabrouk and Laurence Ferrari.
Created in 2017 from the ashes of iTélé, the channel belongs to the Canal+ group, in turn controlled by Vivendi, Vincent Bolloré’s group, with opinions considered ultra-conservative.
RSF had contacted the Council of State in April 2022, after having unsuccessfully asked Arcom to warn CNews to respect its obligations, namely “honesty, independence and informative pluralism.”
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During the hearing before the Council of State on January 19, the public rapporteur who says the law partially agreed with RSF. His conclusions were widely followed.
First of all, Arcom should not limit itself to counting the intervention times of political figures to guarantee respect for pluralism. Therefore, the interventions of all participants in the broadcast programs will have to be taken into account, including columnists, presenters and guests, the jurisdiction demanded, which represents a small revolution.
And as for the independence of the information, this must be assessed “not only with respect to a specific program” but also, for a channel, “with all its operating conditions and the characteristics of its programming,” added the Council of State. in his report. decision made public.