Media legislation: France
Law no. 86-1067 of 30 September 1986 on freedom of Communication amended and completed by the following (…)
The audiovisual communication is free. The exercise of this freedom can only be restricted to the extent necessary on one hand for the respect of human dignity, of the freedoms and the property of other persons, the pluralist expression of currents of thought and opinion and, on the other hand for safeguarding the public order, for the needs of national defense, for the obligations of the public service, for technical constraints inherent to communication media, as well as for the necessity to develop a national audiovisual production industry. The Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel, an independent authority, guarantees this freedom under the conditions defined in the present law; It ensures equality of treatment; it guarantees the independence and the impartiality of the public sector of radio and television broadcasting; it takes care to favour free competition and the establishment of non-discriminatory relations between producers and distributors of services; it supervises the quality and the diversity of programmes, the development of the national audiovisual production and creativity, as well as the defense of and the promotion of the French language and culture. It can draw up proposals for the betterment of the quality of programmes. It can address recommendations to producers and distributors of audiovisual communication services relevant to the respect of principles set in the present law; these recommendations are published in the official gazette of the French Republic.
The Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel ensures respect of the pluralist expression of the currents of thought and opinion in the programmes of the radio and television broadcasting services, in particular in programmes of political and general information. The Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel communicates each month to the presidents of each assembly and the leaders of the different political parties represented in the Parliament the statement with the time of media interventions of political figures in televised news, and news bulletins, the magazines and the other programmes.
The Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel exercises control, with all appropriate means on the object, the content and the modalities of production of the advertising programmes broadcast by the national programme companies and by those having obtain a licence to offer audiovisual communication services in virtue of the present law. All advertising programmes of political character are prohibited. Any infringment of the provisions of the above subparagraph is subject to penalties as provided by article L 90-1 of the electoral code(Article L.90-1 of the electoral code: Any violation of the provisions of’article L.52-1 will be punished with a fine of 75 000 €. Article L.52-1 is included in annex)
Last, the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (…) ensures that radio and television broadcasts do not include any incitement to hatred or to violence on grounds of sex, morals, religion or nationality.
The Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel fixes the rules concerning the conditions of production, scheduling and broadcast of the programmes relevant to electoral campaigns and the national programme companies are obliged to produce and
schedule and the company mentioned in article 51 of the present law [TDF] is obliged to broadcast them. The services offered in this respect are provided for in their terms of reference. Under the present law the Council addresses recommandations to the managers of audiovisual communication services licensed under the present law.(…)
The public sector of audiovisual communication
The companies enumerated in articles 44 and 45 pursue, in the public interest, a mission of public service. They offer to the public, in respect of all its components, a set of programmes and services characterised by diversity and pluralism, quest for quality and innovation, respect of human rights and the democratic principles defined in the constitution. They offer a variety of programmes in analogue and digital modes in the sectors of information, culture, knowledge, entertainment and sport. They favour the democratic dialogue, exchanges between the different parts of the population, as well as social integration and citizenship. They contribute to the development and the spreading of the intellectual and artistic works and of knowledge on civic issues (…).They ensure honesty, independence and pluralism of information and expression.
The government can at any moment ask the companies mentionned in 1 et 2 of article 44 to produce and the company mentionned in article 51 to broadcast any messages and statements that it deems necessary. The programmes are announced as emanating from the government . They can give rise to a right of reply in accordance with modes fixed by the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel.
Retransmission of the proceedings of the parliamentary assemblies by the national programme companies should be effectred under the control of each assembly respectively. All political parties represented by a group in one of the parliamentary assemblies and all trade unions and professional organisations represented on a national-wide scale will have access to airtime in accordanc e with the modes defined by the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel.
The Regulator -- Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA)
a) The Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) issues decisions and recommendations at the request of the broadcasters on the occasion of elections. No general code exists other than a text published in the Council’s informative bulletin of March 2000.In this text the body explains how it perceives pluralism, how it is assessed and the meaning of the various parameters attached to it.
In the recommendations the Council defines the obligations of the broadcasters, the meaning of “fairness” and how the broadcaster should implement the recommendation. It also recalls provisions of various laws relevant to elections and the media. " The following informal translation of the Recommandation of the CSA, dated 3 April 2002, for the parliamentary elections of 9 and 16 June 2002, is offered solely for the purposes of this book. Users requiring a translation for any other purpose are cautioned that both the EIM and the author disclaim any liability arising from any other use"
Recommendation for the parliamentary elections of 9 and 16 June 2002
Date: 3 April 2002, Official Gazette of 12 April 2002 24
Considering the electoral code and in particular articles L.49 subparagraph 2, L.52-1 and L.52-2;
Considering the organic law n° 2001-419 of 15 May 2001;
Considering the amended law n° 77-808 of 19 July 1977 and in particular its Article 11;
Considering the amended law n° 86 -1067 of 30 September 1986 relating to the freedom of communication, in particular its articles 1, 13, 14, 16;
After deliberating, the Conseil Superieur de l’ Audiovisuel addresses to all television and radio services the following recommendation which will be in force as from 7 May 2002 included.
I - Current events related to the elections
1° When a given electoral district is being treated, the television and radio services take care that the various candidates and the personalities who support them benefit from an equitable presentation and access to airtime from 7 May to 7 June 2002 included for the first ballot and from 10 to 14 June 2002 included for the second ballot.
These services give an account of all candidatures.
2° When the treatment of these elections goes beyond the frame of a constituency, the television and radio services ensure that the various political forces presenting candidates benefit from a fair presentation and access to airtime from 7 May to 7 June 2002 included for the first ballot and from 10 to 14 June 2002 included for the second ballot.
3° The reports, comments and presentations to which these elections give rise must be displayed by the editorial boards with a constant concern for balance and honesty.
The editorial boards make sure that the choice of the extracts of the candidates’ statements and writings, those of the representatives of the political forces as well as the comments to which they can give rise do not distort their general meaning.
4° With regard to magazines or special news programmes, the Council requests the services to be careful with their invitation policy in order for the principles mentioned in 1° and 2° above to be respected.
5° In programmes other than information, the Council considers that it is necessary to avoid interventions related to the election if the principles mentioned in 1° and 2° cannot be respected.
II - Current events non-related to the parliamentary elections
With regard to the coverage of these current events, the television and radio services are bound to respect a balance between the time of speech of the members of the government, that of the personalities belonging to the parliamentary majority and that of the personalities belonging to the parliamentary opposition and ensure them comparable programming conditions. Moreover, the editors must take care to ensure a fair time of speech to the personalities belonging to political formations not represented in Parliament.
The television and radio services having local or regional programmes ensure the coverage of the local or regional current events by taking into account the local or regional political balances. For current events not being related to the elections, the Council considers that it is preferable not to invite candidates, except if required by the current events.
III - Statements of the interventions
In order to ensure the observance of the previously mentioned principles:
1° For the national air waves channels TF1, France 2, France 3 (national program), Canal Plus (for descrambled programmes) and M6 (national program), the CSA (Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel) will establish a detailed account of the time allocated to each of the various political parties and groupings and their supports.
2° The statements of the interventions of the representatives of the political parties and groupings and their supports will be transmitted to the CSA in accordance with the indications which will be given to them, by: the La Cinquième , LCI, Euronews, i Television, France Inter, France Info, RTL, Europe 1, RMC Info, BFM, Radio Classique services.
3° Moreover, all televis ion and radio services, including the local television air waves or cable broadcasters, must be able to provide to the CSA, on its request, all the necessary information elements, in particular for the investigation of proceedings which might be submitted to it (speaking time, sound and visual tracks …).
IV - Other provisions
1° Until the date of opening of the official election campaign, the collaborators of all television and radio services who might be candidates take care that their possible
interventions on the air or on television do not have any electoral incidence likely to impair the equality of the candidates as regards the means of propaganda and consequently the sincerity of the poll.
These same collaborators abstain from appearing in broadcasts or expressing themselves on air in the performance of their duties as from the opening of the official campaign on Monday 20 May and until the completion of the election in the district where they were candidates.
2° the television and radio services ensure that the possible use of audio-visual archives including pictures or words of public personalities:
- does not give place to cutting and editing or any use likely to deform the initial meaning of the document;
- Systematically indicate their source and date.
3° the broadcasting of direct access programmes is suspended from 6 May to 16 June 2002 included.
4° the principles drawn from the jurisprudence of the judge of the election must be scrupulously observed.
In particular, the diffusion of defamatory, untrue or abusive remarks or speeches bringing new elements of electoral controversy at a date or under conditions making an answer impossible or inoperative is likely to distort the sincerity of the poll and therefore to lead to its cancellation.
It is reminded that a mass support of one or more candidates or a political formation, which would be analyzed as broadcast time allocated for purposes of electoral propaganda, could be likely to distort the sincerity of the poll and consequently lead to its cancellation. Furthermore, such programmes could be regarded as assistance in kind brought to candidates by a legal entity (prohibited by Article L.52-8 of the electoral code) and therefore result in the rejection of the electoral campaign account of these candidates.
5° It is reminded that:
- Article 14 of the amended law of 30 September 1986 prohibits television or radio advertising programmes with a political character;
- Article L.52-1 second subparagraph, of the electoral code provides that: "As from the first day of the sixth month preceding the month during which general elections are to be held, no advertising campaign promoting the achievements or management of a community may be organized in the territory of the communities concerned by the poll.
Without prejudice to the provisions of this chapter, this prohibition does not apply to the presentation, by a candidate or on his behalf, within the framework of the organization of his campaign, of the results of the management of offices which he holds or has held. The related expenditures are subject to the provisions in respect of the financing and ceiling of electoral campaign expenses contained in chapter V (a) of this title";
- Article L.49, subparagraph 2, of the electoral code, provides that: "From the day before the poll at 0 hour, it is forbidden to disseminate or have disseminated, by any means of audio-visual communication, any message having the character of election propaganda"; - Article L.52-2 of the electoral code, provides that: "In the event of general elections, no result of the election, whether partial or final, can be communicated to the public, through the press or by any audio-visual means of communication, in the metropolis, before the closing of the last polling station in the metropolitan territory. The same goes true in the overseas departments before the closing of the last polling station in each department concerned ";
- Article 11 of the amended law of 19 July 1977 provides that: "on the day before as well as on the day of each ballot the publication, dissemination and comment, by any means whatsoever, of any survey as defined in Article 1 are prohibited. This prohibition is also applicable to the surveys having been the subject of a publication, dissemination or comment before the day preceding each ballot. It does not hinder already published magazines or data put on line before this date from continuing to be available";
- the services of audiovisual communication are bound to implement, if necessary, the right of reply instituted by Article 6 of the law of 29 July 1982, kept in force by the amended law of 30 September 1986 referred to above.
b) The Council issues decisions in which it determines the practical arrangements for the production of the party broadcasts and the means being put at the disposal of the parties or candidates. Additionally the procedures to follow for the production of PPBs are set out along with the rules applied and the timing of the broadcasts on television and radio. Instead of translating its provisions and all technical details, we have compiled and included here a list of the issues raised in the decision.