France debates merger that would lead to media colossus – EURACTIV.com – .

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France debates merger that would lead to media colossus – EURACTIV.com – .


The announced agreement which would see the two main French television groups, TF1 and M6, merge to face American giants like Netflix or Amazon Prime raises major concerns about competition and media concentration in the country. EURACTIV France reports.

Wednesday, December 1, Olivier Roussat, the boss of the Bouygues group, parent company of one of the groups concerned, defended the merger in front of the Senators.

An opinion on the issue is still awaited from the French Competition Authority and the Superior Audiovisual Council, which will soon be renamed the Audiovisual Communication Regulatory Authority.

On November 15, the newspaper Les Echos revealed that the Iliad group, parent company of the French telecommunications company Free, had written to the European Commission asking it to examine the case, considering that the operation was of European scope.

The information was confirmed to EURACTIV by the Iliad group. However, the European Commission and the French competition authority declined to comment.

TF1 and M6 announced in May that they wanted to merge in order to gain more weight against American platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney + and to better adapt to new audiovisual consumption habits in France.

Bertelsmann, the owner of the RTL group, himself a majority shareholder of M6, wishes to sell 30% of his shares in M6 to the Bouygues group, which would then become the majority owner of this new audiovisual giant.

But this marriage is not to everyone’s liking.

If the merger was successful, the new group would have 10 channels. However, French law does not allow television groups in the country to own more than seven, so it would likely have to be sold. On top of that, the merger would also affect around a third of total viewers and over 70% of the French television advertising market.

The “status quo is not possible”, explained Roussat questioned Wednesday by the senators of the committee of culture, education and communication and the committee of economic affairs.

For the media mogul, it is a question of “mutualising [their] requires you to be able to buy content ”, while distributors increasingly favor platforms such as Netflix, which offer an international market and can free themselves from individual negotiations between rights holders and national broadcasters and“ offer a suitable streaming service ” to new modes of cultural consumption.

A quasi-monopolistic situation?

The French Competition Authority will decide whether this merger will give rise to a virtual monopoly, particularly in the advertising market. It will determine whether the new giant will be dominant in the market in which it will operate in the future.

Roussat said he was “relatively calm” on this issue, believing that the competition authority should sufficiently take into account the weight of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (GAFAM) on the online advertising sector.

The boss of Bouygues also said he hoped to get the green light by October 2022, for a merger that would take place in early 2023 at the latest.

A delicate question

The question has been the subject of many discussions in France. On the government side, the project is viewed positively.

“I am not worried about this merger,” Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot told Franceinfo radio at the end of August.

The Superior Audiovisual Council, which is due to give its opinion in early 2022, indicated, through its president, Roch-Olivier Maistre, that it found natural and understandable that the players in the French audiovisual landscape “play their game “. together ”in order to“ develop their investment capacity and a kind of cultural sovereignty ”.

And if it remains difficult to predict the position of the French Competition Authority, the recent non-renewal of Isabelle de Silva at its head has created a feeling of suspicion around possible reservations that the independent authority could have. have during his tenure.

“I see that the president [of the competition body], a figure unanimously supported in France and internationally, has not been renewed, ”said Sophie Primas, president of the Committee on Economic Affairs, to her fellow legislators. ” Let’s hope that [her replacement] will be able to investigate this matter independently, ”she added.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi]

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