• Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

“Le Système B”: RSF’s shocking documentary on the Bolloré system | RSF – Reporters Without Borders


Oct 14, 2021


1. The State must intervene for editorial independence in its capacity as shareholder of Vivendi

The Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations owns 2.20% of the capital of Vivendi, parent company of the Canal + Group. Through its participation control body, the State has the capacity, as a shareholder, to act on the situation and must use its right to information and question.

  • The State must call on the Vivendi General Assembly to adopt a motion asking that the editorial independence of all the group’s media be guaranteed.

2. The CSA must ensure respect for honesty, independence and pluralism of information on the basis of current conventions

The Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) has the function of “guarantee the honesty, independence and pluralism of information and the programs that contribute to it” and of “ensure that the economic interests of the shareholders of service editors and their advertisers do not undermine these principles”. It has the power of control, formal notice and sanction, but also of renegotiation of agreements in the event of modification of the conditions on the basis of which they were signed.

  • The CSA must be based on existing law, in particular on the notion of “honesty of information”Provided for in the Bloche law, and sanction violations of editorial independence and pluralism that may be observed within the media of the Bolloré group. Their jurisprudential definition being imprecise, the CSA could free itself from a minimalist interpretation to make of it a principle structuring its analysis of the media.
  • The CSA must ensure that the ethical charters “that must adopt press or audiovisual companies or publishers”In application of the Bloche law are in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the major texts relating to journalistic ethics recognized by the profession and that they are not written by management alone, but negotiated with representatives of journalists.
  • The CSA must ensure that the committees “relating to the honesty, independence and pluralism of information and programs”Are composed with sincerity and function, in accordance with the Bloche law.

3. The CSA must consider renegotiating the CNews convention to guarantee the dissemination of journalistic content.

The agreement signed by the CSA with Cnews was concluded with a news channel, for a news channel. However, information now occupies only a limited part of CNews’ grid. The number of journalists with press cards has fallen. “Come with your convictions, you will form an opinion!” : CNews’ spring 2021 communication campaign clearly says the shift from a continuous news channel to a debate and opinion channel. The CSA is justified in reviewing the Cnews convention as soon as it becomes an opinion media more than a news channel. Such a revision would have the advantage of dissuading the reproduction of such a transformation in Europe 1.

  • The convention which binds the CSA to CNews must be renegotiated, while respecting the editorial freedom of the channel, so that obligations of quantity and frequency of broadcast of journalistic information programs are imposed, in respect of article 3- 1-1 which defines the nature of CNews’ service, “Devoted to information” and one “Program updated in real time”.
  • The CSA should take advantage of the change in capital control of Europe 1 to review the radio convention and impose obligations similar to those desired for CNews and for all audiovisual media.

4. The Competition Authority will have to consider the compatibility of Vincent Bolloré’s acquisitions with regard to competition law.

Vincent Bolloré already owns Canal +, CNews (television channel and free newspaper), Prisma Média (Capital, Gala, Here, Télé Loisirs..), but also, in publishing, Éditis. The public takeover bid (OPA) launched by Vincent Bolloré against the Lagardère group will be completed by December 15, 2022. In the publishing sector, the combined market share of Hachette and Éditis would reach 71% in the extracurricular, 63% in the dictionary or 54% in the Pocket Book. It should also be remembered that Vincent Bolloré sued two works published by publishers of the Lagardère group, Informing is not a crime (Calmann-Lévy) and Almighty vincent (JC Lattès).

  • The competition authority must prevent the creation of quasi-monopolies in the information sectors, including publishing, which is one of the means of expression of journalists.

5. The legislator must put in place an effective mechanism against gagging procedures

The “gag procedures”, known by the English acronym SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation), have become a deterrent to muzzle the media. RSF is calling for measures to be put in place in national and community law to combat the misappropriation of legal actions aimed at silencing journalists.

  • RSF pleads in particular for the introduction of procedural guarantees for victims of SLAPPs (in particular the end of the “automatic” indictment of journalists in the event of a defamation complaint with the constitution of civil party) and of preventive measures to block complaints. abuses (assessment of admissibility, injunctions, interim measures), as well as for the application of punitive measures in order to sanction the authors of these complaints and compensate the victims.

6. Create an offense of trading in influence applied to the field of information

The typical example of influence peddling in the information field is the episode of the documentary on Crédit Mutuel, whose broadcast by Canal + was blocked in May 2015 at the request of Vincent Bolloré, owner of Canal +, because too much criticism of this bank which is its business partner: the owner of a media outlet uses his influence on this media to promote his business partners and his own interests. The episode of the advertorial on Togo is another example: Vincent Bolloré, who has many interests in Togo, introduced into Canal + programs a real advertisement on Togo and its president, presented as a report.

  • The law should penalize these practices which are the abuse by media owners or managers of their ability to influence journalistic productions to promote their interests or the interests of third parties.
  • RSF proposes to create an offense of trading in influence applied to the field of information, inspired by the offense of trading in influence existing for those holding public authority. A specific incrimination will be introduced in the Penal Code to sanction conflicts of interest of this type in the media sector, punishing “The fact, by anyone, of soliciting or approving, without right, at any time, directly or indirectly, offers, promises, gifts, presents or advantages whatsoever for himself or for others, to abuse of its real or supposed influence with a view to influencing the editorial productions of companies that publish audiovisual communication services or press companies ”.

7. The legislator must revise the 1986 law on media concentration

The 1986 law is outdated. It takes digital technology very insufficiently into account and only limits horizontal concentrations, without combating the integration of the media within groups with interests in other sectors. The concentration thresholds that it sets are obsolete: limiting the concentrations with regard to the population areas affected or according to the areas served no longer makes sense when the media are accessible online everywhere and by everyone; the so-called “two out of three” rule, which aims to limit cross-properties in television, radio and the written press is ineffective when one of the three thresholds, relating to paper media, can never apply: no daily in France does not reach “20% of the distribution, on the national territory”. Finally, the concentration rules take no account of the allocation of frequencies: nothing in the law prohibits a single person from owning all the news channels.

  • RSF is proposing to amend the obsolete provisions of the 1986 audiovisual law. This requires, first, to ensure the application of rules on transparency of media ownership so that the obligation to reveal the identity of the shareholders and the final beneficiary is respected. The holder of effective control of a medium should also be clearly identified.
  • The criteria of the law must be rethought, in particular with regard to multimedia synergies, to take into account, for example, the allocation of frequencies. The thresholds of the law must be updated, (rule known as “two out of three”), in particular to add the weekly press.