[Viewpoit]France’s media example
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France last spring ordered a member of his party to write a report about the future of the media. But the person Sarkozy chose to spearhead the effort is not a special aide for the media; he is a specialist in business issues.
France regards the media as a political product, much more so than its neighboring countries. Scholars analyze that during political upheavals such as the French Revolution and the second French Revolution in 1968, the media raised its voice and played an important role. France’s newspapers are still very politically charged. Therefore there are many regulations to keep them in check. There is a single organization that sells different newspapers together, and companies must abide by many regulations in order to run many media outlets. It is believed that if one media company grows too big it can cause a negative effect on politics.
The International Herald Tribune recently pointed out the fact that dailies’ excessive political characteristics hinder development of French newspapers.
Sarkozy maintains that France should not view the media as a political tool but as an industry. It was not a coincidence that he left the report to a person who was in charge of business issues. Sarkozy’s media reform started with an idea and goal to nurture the media as a competitive industry.
However, as the media companies can’t be handled in the same way as other ordinary companies, the report included comprehensive opinions of people working in the press. Opinions of CEOs, executives, journalists, labor unions of media outlets and professors of journalism and economics were included.
The key of the report was the inevitability of large-scale media groups. The report wrote that in many countries in the world, media outlets are being integrated. It explains that the government cannot prevent a variety of media outlets from becoming united.
Even if France refuses the trend for political reasons, it will be impossible to fight against the formation of large-sized media groups.
The report maintains that the government must help cultivate a world-class media group that represents France. For that, the government must first lift regulations so that companies can run TV stations, newspapers and radio stations together. That is to say, a newspaper should be allowed to run a TV broadcaster.
The Socialist Party, France’s biggest opposition party, is watching Sarkozy’s media reform closely. The Socialists severely criticize the president’s argument that he will have the right to designate the president of a state broadcaster.
However, they don’t criticize the move to allow a newspaper to run a broadcaster or to foster large-scale media groups. The opposition party also knows that the purpose is not to trigger political fights inside the country but to secure the media’s competitiveness on the global stage.
I asked a French journalist why there were no concerns that a media company might dominate the field and manipulate the general public’s opinions if it is allowed to run different types of media outlets.
To answer my question he cited what novelist Jean-Marie Gustav Le Clezio said: “If the Internet had existed at the time, perhaps Hitler’s criminal plot would not have succeeded.” With billions of netizens monitoring what’s going on around the world in real time, it would be impossible to manipulate public opinion just because some newspapers and broadcasters in a country are integrated.
The most important reason the French government hopes to foster media groups is severe competition in the field of culture around the world. Everyone knows that competition over cultural content will decide a country’s economic power in the 21st century. Media companies, not the government, represent each country. Thus, the media will lead the competition of cultural content.
In France, both the ruling and the opposition parties know that they are way behind in the competition. They understand that the media is important. Moreover, it has a tremendous ability to spread cultural content of all kinds. Korea’s political circle also should stop regarding the media as a tool for politics. They should take a strategic approach to the issue of allowing a daily to run a broadcaster.
The writer is the Paris correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Jeon Jin-bae