French Public TV Goes Ad Free; Not All Are Pleased

Critics say Sarkozy plan is gift to corporate competitors
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2009 8:39 AM CST
Public TV employees protest against French president Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to put public TV under his command, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008 near the Eiffel tower in Paris.   (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
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(Newser) – In France last night, television viewers were treated to something they'd never seen before: prime time programming without commercials on the country's five state-run public networks. It's the first reform in Nicolas Sarkozy's proposed "big bang" transformation of France Télévisions, and eventually all advertising will be banned. But the scheme has many opponents, in the media and in parliament.

Sarkozy has said he wants France Télévisions to be more like the BBC, which carries no advertising on its TV and radio stations. But as the Guardian reports, many see the reforms as nothing more than a chance to enrich the owners of France's private TV networks, several of whom are close friends of the president. And journalists on the public stations, worried that their budgets will suffer, launched a strike recently that disrupted the evening news.