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The politics of broadcasting in France 1974-1978

By Raymond Kuhn


The subject matter of this thesis is the 1974-75 reorganisation\ud of the French state broadcasting services which abolished the ORTF\ud and the consequences of this reform for the relationship between the\ud Government and broadcasting during the early years of the Giscardian\ud presidency.\ud The originality of the thesis lies in the fact that this\ud reorganisation is placed in an explicitly political context,\ud the election of the first non-Gaullist President of the Fifth\ud Republic and the ensuing conflict between the Gaullist and Giscardian\ud components of the governing coalition. The thesis also makes a\ud significant contribution to the limited amount of academic literature\ud on French broadcasting in general.\ud Placed within the framework of the debate about the role\ud of broadcasting in liberal democracies, the thesis examines the\ud applicability of two antithetical models, the "fourth estate"\ud and "state control" models, to the French broadcasting system\ud since 1974.\ud Neither is found to be satisfactory. Our detailed study of\ud government-broadcasting relations since the reform demonstrates\ud that the political executive, and within the executive particularly\ud the President of the Republic, has at its disposal a variety of\ud means through which to control those aspects of broadcasting in\ud which it has an interest, ranging from determing the legal framework\ud of the state monopoly to appointing political sympathisers to\ud key decision-making posts. Neither the broadcasting staff,\ud the management or the boards of governors of the separate companies\ud set up by the 1974 reform has the freedom of manoeuvre necessary\ud for broadcasting in France to be regarded as a "fourth estate."\ud On the other hand, the "state control" model is too vague and\ud monolithic, unable to allow for change except of a totally radical\ud kind. On the basis of a wide variety of published and unpublished\ud material and interviews with members of broadcasting management,\ud staff, journalists, politicians and civil servants, this thesis shows\ud that government-broadcasting relations in France have altered greatly\ud in form and to a limited extent in substance since 1974. For example,\ud the direct, overt controls which were so much of a feature of de Gaulle's\ud presidency have given way to a reliance on indirect controls,\ud particularly via partisan appointments within the broadcasting\ud companies. This is especially the case with control over news\ud output which has been largely internalised within the radio and\ud television companies

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