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President's proposal on appointment of public television president threatens independence of public service broadcasting, says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 27 June 2008 ARTICLE 19 press release:

France: Independence of Public Service Broadcasting Threatened

Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal on the appointment of the president of the French public television broadcaster, France Télévisions, contravenes international standards regarding the independence of public service broadcasting, and should be opposed.

President Sarkozy suggested on June 26 that the president of France Télévisions should be appointed by the executive branch upon the agreement of the Broadcasting Higher Council (Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel) and subject to the approval of a qualified majority of parliamentarians. The president of France Télévisions is currently appointed by the CSA.

"President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal, if implemented, will threaten the independence of the French Public Service Broadcaster and the free flow of information and ideas in the country. It also sends a very erroneous message and signal to countries with state-controlled media and to those in transition that may consider moving to public service broadcasting," said Dr. Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19's Executive Director.

National publicly funded broadcasters can make an important contribution to a diversity of information and viewpoints provided that they are protected against political or commercial interference.

For independence to be respected, the public service broadcaster should be governed by a Board of Directors, appointed by the lower house of Parliament (or its equivalent) upon nomination by civil society and professional organisations in a process that is transparent and that allows for public participation.

There should be a specific guarantee for the independence of members of the Board and their tenure should be protected. Furthermore, individuals with strong political connections or with vested interests in broadcasting should be prohibited from being appointed to the Board. The Board should appoint, by a two-thirds majority vote, the Managing Director, and set all of its own rules of procedure.

For a copy of ARTICLE 19's model law on Public Service broadcasting in English: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/standards/modelpsblaw.pdf
and in French: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/standards/psb-model-law-french.pdf

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