– My editorial on the Journal des Arts
As is all too often the case, debates on reforms do not focus on the important topics. Indeed, the focus of the debate is usually on matters that can create additional scandals. Nonetheless, the next draft law on audio-visual policy reform, so important for the future of culture in France, will mainly be an opportunity for a political fight, in Parliament and elsewhere, on whether or not to maintain the audio-visual licence fee and the process of appointing directors; this fight will take center-stage, rather than issues related to the types of broadcasts we offer or how to recapture the interest of the new generations, for whom television is now as out of fashion as the fixed telephone or the Walkman.
Of course, it is important to ensure that the leaders of these companies are not political puppets, and that they have significant and stable resources. Legislators will have to make sure of this: nothing would be worse for Radio France or France Télévision than being lead by a forgotten politician, and the allocation resources depending on the whims of senior officials, (very competent of course), from the Budget Department or the Ministry of Finance: Culture is, by nature, a priority for none of them.
Beyond these necessities, there are two other fundamental ones, intimately linked to each other.
Firstly, we should ensure that the programs are at the level of what France needs.
Programs that are of high cultural level, great moral integrity, open to the world and representative of all components of French society. This should be the case for both information and entertainment programs. Contrary to what too many people say, such programs can interest large audiences, as shown by the success of high-level programs such as “Cash Investigation”, “Taratata”, “Le Grand Echiquier”, “Stupéfiant”, big budget, too big to mention, high-level documentaries, fascinating scientific and medical programs, almost the totality of the programming of France Culture, France Inter and Arte, and many others.
Additionally, public service broadcasting has nothing to gain from continuing to imitate the worst private channels. For example, by broadcasting appalling reality shows, stupid games, vulgar variety shows, or insipid French or American series. The French public has a much higher level than programmers who despise them would like to believe.
Lastly, we must think about making these programs available to new generations who no longer watch television the same way that they did thirty years ago: in the future, almost no one will watch television or listen to radio at the specific time that these programs are being broadcasted. We must therefore think of these programs, by considering the fact that these programs can be viewed at any time, on a computer, tablet or telephone screen.
At a time when the demand for culture is growing, when there in an increase yearning for lifelong learning, when more and more young adults and retirees are eager to learn, the time has come to call upon brand new skills, capable of entertaining an audience with the most daunting subjects. It exists. Many of them are outside the familiar clan from which most audiovisual productions are made at the moment. The reform will only be successful if it convinces these countless people to serve a true popular culture that is tolerant, demanding and lucid. There is no greater challenge.