The NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) seized the highest administrative court in 2022 regarding the CNews channel. The Council of State rendered its decision on Tuesday February 13, asking Arcom, the media regulator, to strengthen its control over the news channel in the hands of conservative billionaire Vincent Bolloré.
In its decision, the highest national administrative court “directs Arcom to re-examine within six months compliance by the CNews channel with its obligations in terms of pluralism and independence of information”according to a communicated. This decision is in line with the NGO’s desire for the regulatory authority to be more uncompromising on the counting of political speaking times, particularly with the channels of the Canal+ group.
Arcom reacted by announcing that it “will re-examine the appeal of the Reporters Without Borders association, in accordance with the terms of today’s decision”. “With this renewed interpretation of the 1986 law, the Council of State strengthens the capacity of control by the regulator of the obligations of these media in terms of honesty, pluralism and independence of information, in compliance with their editorial freedom »act the authority.
“From now on, in addition to counting the speaking times of political figures, the regulator will be able, to assess a publisher’s respect for the pluralism of currents of thought and opinions, to take into account the interventions of all the participants in the programs broadcast , including columnists, hosts and guests”, adds Arcom, before adding that “ to ensure the independence of the information”She “will now be able to take into account all the operating conditions and channel programming characteristics”.
“Great victory” and “historic decision” hailed by RSF
The regulator must not limit itself to counting the speaking times of political figures to ensure respect for pluralism, the Council of State ruled on Tuesday in its decision made public. In his decision, he “ judges that, to assess the respect by a television channel, whatever it may be, of the pluralism of information, Arcom must take into account the diversity of currents of thought and opinions represented by all the participants to the programs broadcast, including columnists, hosts and guests, and not just the speaking time of political figures”.
Concerning the independence of information within the channel, the Council of State adds that Arcom must ensure this. “taking into account the whole [des] Working conditions [de CNews] and the characteristics of its programming, and not only from the sequence of an extract from a particular program ».
RSF’s lawyer, Mr. Spinosi, welcomed this decision to the World : “This is a very big victory for freedom of information and pluralism in the media. For the first time, the Council of State requires Arcom, just as we asked it, to monitor respect for pluralism on all CNews programs. » “It goes even further by requiring that the regulator ensures that the effective independence of the channel is guaranteed with regard to the influence that its shareholders can exercise on the editorial line. Arcom’s passivity is sanctioned,” he added.
According to the lawyer“the RSF association will continue to ensure that these requirements are scrupulously respected”. The general secretary of the association, Christophe Deloire, also welcomed on of this decision which represents, according to him, “a great victory for RSF but above all a historic decision for democracy and journalism”.
The association for the defense of press freedom seized the court in April 2022, pointing out “Arcom’s inaction” face “to the failings of CNews”. Before this appeal, the NGO defending press freedom had called in vain on Arcom to put CNews on notice to respect its obligations, namely “honesty, independence and pluralism of information”. RSF considers that the CNews channel “is no longer a news channel, but has become an opinion media”, which the person concerned contests. During the hearing before the Council of State on January 19, the public rapporteur, who says the law, partially agreed with RSF: he considered that Arcom had not sufficiently justified its rejection of the request. from RSF.
On the podium of news channels, CNews is second in terms of audience at the start of 2024, behind BFM-TV, but it is progressing. Its main headliners are Pascal Praud, Christine Kelly, Sonia Mabrouk, Laurence Ferrari… The channel 16 belongs to the Canal+ group, itself controlled by Vivendi, Vincent Bolloré’s group, with opinions known to be ultraconservative.
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Arcom has already put CNews on notice on several occasions regarding broadcast sequences, in particular regarding respect for political pluralism. RSF asked the regulator to go further and guarantee “effective control” beyond that of the balance of speaking times of political guests.