While the legal and regulatory framework is favourable to press freedom and editorial independence, the mechanisms aimed at combatting conflicts of interest in the media are insufficient, inadequate, and outdated. The public broadcast media are undermined by the lack of long-term funding since the domestic licence fee’s elimination. Despite the adoption of a new set of policing regulations that takes more account of journalists’ rights during demonstrations, reporters continue to be subjected to police violence as well as physical attacks by demonstrators.
The media landscape offers a wide range of choices in all categories at both national and local level. The daily Ouest-France is the best-selling newspaper. The public television channels and radio stations of France Télévisions and Radio France compete with such commercial broadcasters as TF1, M6, RTL and BFM TV. Media acquisitions by Vincent Bolloré, a billionaire businessman who bullies his media employees, could destabilise the sector.
The French media are independent of the government and can hold politicians to account in the public interest. The public broadcast media’s independence is nonetheless undermined by the lack of long-term funding since the domestic TV licence fee’s elimination in 2022. Verbal attacks on the media from politicians, which were particularly virulent from those of the more radically left and right-wing parties, seem to have diminished in recent years. The influence of public relations and communication operations is unfortunately on the rise.
The legislative framework is generally protective of freedom of the press and journalists, but shortcomings remain with regard to curbing gag suits, of which Mediapart and Reflets.info were targets in 2022, and safeguarding the confidentiality of journalists' sources (after the Constitutional Council struck down part of a law passed in 2010). In 2022, the Council of State asked broadcast media regulator Arcom to follow up on RSF’s appeal to Eutelsat, a satellite operator partially controlled by the French government, that permitted the broadcast of Russian propaganda TV channels.
A fall in advertising revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic was partly offset by an increase in online media subscriptions and by state aid. The legislative framework remains insufficient to prevent vertical media concentrations in the hands of just a few owners. While the law requires honest, independent and pluralistic news coverage, it is unable to ensure that these requirements are respected, and the regulator does not do enough to enforce them, especially with regard to certain TV channels that increasingly provide opinion instead of news.
A significant level of mistrust towards journalists has been reflected in recent years in verbal and physical attacks, especially during protests against the government’s public health and social policies. Journalists have also been the targets of physical and online attacks from far-right and far-left groups, Islamist organisations and conspiracy theorists. Environmental reporters are often subjected to intimidation.
Despite the adoption of a new set of regulations for policing protests that takes more account of reporters’ rights and freedoms, journalists have continued to be the targets of police violence as well as physical attacks by protesters. Several journalists are under police protection because of the threat from Islamist extremists, who killed part of the editorial staff of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in 2015.