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French Media - TELEVISION

Between public and private sector channels and those received by cable or satellite, the French now have a wide choice of television schedules - about sixty, in fact.

Public Broadcasting

This consists of four channels which are paid for by television licence fees, a tax of 735 francs per year paid by all French people who own a television set.

The channels are:-

a) France 2 and France 3, which are run by one chairman as a single company, France Télévision.

France 2 is a national general interest channel which broadcasts a twenty-four hour schedule of programmes intended to appeal to large audiences but maintain high standards.

To this end, the schedule consists (in descending order, according to the time allocated) of game shows and entertainments, documentaries and magazine programmes, made-for-TV fiction, news, sports, films and so on.

This channel also broadcasts religious programmes every Sunday morning for all the different faiths practised in France.

France 3 is a mixed national and regional channel: during the day, it broadcasts local or regional programmes.

Viewing figures for this channel are on the increase (it is currently watched by about 20% of French viewers) and some of its programmes attract a regular and enthusiastic audience.

Its schedule gives priority to fiction and news bulletins, followed by youth programmes, magazines, entertainments, films and so on.


b) Arte and La Cinquième

Arte is a joint French and German cultural channel, and is broadcast on the fifth French channel from 7.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m.

Its schedule often centres around a theme for the evening, with films, current affairs magazine programmes, fiction and documentaries. About 2 million viewers say they watch Arte  (0.5 million in Germany).

La Cinquième is broadcast on the same channel as Arte, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is an educational channel, whose schedule focuses on knowledge, training and employment.

Schedules includes educational programmes and game shows, programmes about employment, films and documentaries. 93% of teachers consider La Cinquième  "quite useful".

The Private Sector

This consists of three channels:- TF1; Canal +; and M6.


TF1 is both the oldest and the most popular French television channel.

It is a general interest channel which gives priority to news (in the form of bulletins and magazine programmes), fiction, musical entertainments, shows and concerts, films (showing up to 170 per year) and sport (particularly football).

Canal + is an encoded channel (to watch programmes, viewers pay a subscription of 175 francs a month and receive a decoder to unscramble the sound and picture). Some programmes can be seen without a decoder (this amounts to 4 hours of programmes per day).

Canal + broadcasts 24 hours a day,  during which its schedule is 50%  films, 10% made-for-TV films, cartoons, sport (specifically, a large number of football matches from the French championship) and of course, its famous rubber puppets "les guignols de l'info" (the equivalent of Spitting Image) which comment on the news and lampoon political and media celebrities every evening.

Just after it was launched in 1984, Canal + had 245,000 subscribers; it now has approximately 5 million.

M6 is also a relatively new channel (it was created in 1986). It is a general interest channel, but its 24-hour schedule broadcasts mainly music and fiction aimed at a young audience, even if there are also news bulletins, magazine programmes and documentaries. Viewing figures for M6 were 1.5% in 1987 (when, however, its schedule was not broadcast throughout France) and are now about 13%.

Although Canal + is paid for by subscriptions, it also receives revenues from advertising, as do TF1 and M6, which are additionally backed by private shareholders (press and advertising consortiums, industrial firms, banks, insurance companies and others).

To these seven conventional television channels, public and private, must be added fifty or so French (and about 200 foreign) cable and satellite channels.

Most of these are specialist channels or are aimed at a specific audience. Some of the best-known are Canal J (for 2 to 14-year-olds), Canal Jimmy (for fans of the Sixties and Seventies), Ciné-Cinéfil (for people who love old black-and-white films and classic cinema), Ciné-Cinéma (for all fil buffs), Eurosport (for sports enthusiasts), Planète (for people who are fascinated by documentaries and reports), Téva (for women).

One channel, LC1 (La chaîne de l'info  - "The News Channel"),a subsidiary of TF1, has the distinction of being the first French channel to broadcast news continuously 24 hours a day.

There are also channels devoted to animals, cars, shooting and fishing, horse-racing, history, the weather, classical music, cop films, travel and so on.


The practice of offering a package of satellite schedules is currently on the increase. This strategy contrives to give viewers as wide a choice as possible whilst fending off competition from foreign channels.

There are now three packages on offer:- Canal satellite, which is under the aegis of Canal + and offers twenty specialist channels by subscription; TPS, which is run by TF1, and offers about fifteen channels to subscribers; and AB Sat, a production company, which also offers about fifteen channels.

As part of cultural diplomacy, the government has an external audiovisual policy administered by TV5 and CFI (Canal France international).


TV5 is a French-language channel which is broadcast all over the world using cable and satellite technology.

Its schedule is made up of programmes from French public broadcasting (France 2 and France 3) and Belgian, Swiss, Canadian and Quebec public broadcasting channels. Its name refers to the five French-speaking countries involved.

CFI, which is also broadcast by satellite, is intended to be a showcase for French television production for the rest of the world.

CFI offers specific schedules in each of five broadcasting zones:- Africa; Central and Eastern Europe; the Near and Middle East; Asia; and Latin America.


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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:58:17 ZULU