The legislative and regulatory framework favours press freedom and editorial independence, but the mechanisms for combatting conflicts of interest in the media are insufficient, inappropriate and outdated. In response to police violence, a new set of regulations for policing protests was adopted that takes more account of journalists’ rights. But reporters have also been the targets of many 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, including the public sector media, are independent of the government and can hold politicians to account in the public interest. 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 lessened in recent years. The influence of public relations and communication operations is unfortunately on the rise.
The legislative framework is generally protective of media and journalistic freedom, but shortcomings remain with regard to curbing gag suits and safeguarding the confidentiality of journalists' sources (after the Constitutional Council struck down part of a law passed in 2010). In 2021, the Constitutional Council struck down an article in the so-called global security law that could have prevented journalists from covering police operations.
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 high level of mistrust of journalists has been reflected in verbal and physical attacks, especially during protests against measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent years, journalists have also been the targets of physical and online attacks from far-right, far-left and Islamist organisations.
Police violence against journalists has declined in the past year and a new set of regulations for policing protests takes more account of reporters’ rights and freedoms, but journalists have continued to be the targets of many physical attacks. Several journalists are receiving police protection because of the threat from Islamist extremists, who killed eight journalists and cartoonists and four others in an attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in 2015.