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Public-sector journalists protest Macron plans to end media tax over fears for independence

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Some FRANCE 24 programs will be disrupted on Tuesday following a strike in the French state broadcasting sector over President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to abolish the TV license and fund public media broadcasters through general taxes. Media unions say Macron’s proposal will undermine public media independence and could lead to budget cuts.

The unions of French public broadcasters – including France Médias Monde, the company that owns FRANCE 24, Radio France International and Arab radio MCD – called a one-day strike for June 28. We apologize for the programming disruption.

Macron vowed to abolish the media tax (known as the “contribution à l’audiovisual public‘), which funds TV, radio and online programs during his reelection campaign. The annual contribution of €138 – paid by the 23 million households that own a television in mainland France – brings in more than €3 billion annually to support France Médias Monde, France Télévisions, Radio France, Arte-France and INA (Institut national de l’ audiovisual).

In a joint statement, journalists’ unions criticized the plans, saying they “threaten the survival of the public broadcaster”. If there is no protected source of income, the public media will become more ‘precarious’ and subject to ‘political pressure’.

The unions went on to say that “citizens never need independent information” anymore, including access to a diverse and diverse cultural offering.

France “must have an independent and publicly funded audiovisual media service commensurate with the problems and challenges we face”. A online petition said that to ensure the “independence” of the public broadcaster, the budget “cannot be set by the government and subject to the whims of a vote” on annual budgets.

According to an report by Julia Cagé, an economist specializing in the media, 13 of the 27 member states of the European Union continue to impose media fees, including France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

“At a time when fake news is spreading and inflation is eroding budgets, it is essential to provide transparency in financing and fair distribution, as several Scandinavian countries have been able to do over the past ten years,” Cage wrote

The French media fee is far from the highest. In Germany, this is €210 per year, and all households pay the tax because even if they don’t have a TV, people can still read the news articles from the public broadcasters and listen to radio podcasts online.

The BBC is funded by a levy of £159 (€190) for all UK households that have a TV. However, Boris Johnson’s government plans to abolish the license fee by 2027, although the alternative way to fund the BBC is as yet unclear. Westminster is considering several ideas, from allowing advertising on BBC channels to basically a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Public Accounts Minister Gabriel Attal presented the proposal to the cabinet in mid-May, a month after Macron secured his second five-year term at the Élysée. The license fee will be “abolished for good” this year, they said, adding that the government will “continue to ensure media pluralism and independence” with funding through general taxes.

The bill to abolish the license fee is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives in July.

The protest begins at noon, with striking journalists marching from the Montparnasse tower to the National Assembly in the center of the French capital.

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