France SCRAPS £115 TV license fee to tackle cost of living crisis


France has scrapped its £115 TV license in an effort to address the growing cost of living crisis, which could be a potential blow to public broadcasting models in other countries.

The French Senate voted to approve President Emmanuel Macron’s election promise to scrap the fee in a heated debate that ran into the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

The country’s annual fee, currently set at €138, has provided the public broadcasters with most of their revenue since its introduction in 1933.

These broadcasters include UKTN, Radio France, France Télévisions, Radio France Internationale (RFI) and the Franco-German broadcaster Arte.

In 2022, the license free – which applies to the approximately 27 million homes that claim to own a television – brought in 3.2 billion euros.

France has scrapped its £115 TV license in an effort to address the growing cost of living crisis, which could be a potential blow to public broadcasting models in other countries. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron can be seen on a television screen in July

Opponents of the movement on the left of French politics expressed concern about the future funding of the country’s independent public television and radio, arguing that such institutions would be weakened by the move.

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Others opposed to the movement on the right also criticized the cut and called for wider discussion about a broader overhaul of public broadcasting in France.

Macron’s promise during his successful election campaign earlier this year also sparked a fight over the funding of France’s independent journalism.

Despite the objections, the French Senate — which has a center-right majority — ultimately agreed that the license fee was “outdated.”

The reason cited was the popularity of on-demand streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.

In lieu of the license fee, the Senate approved the financing of public broadcasters with VAT revenues until the end of 2024.

Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said the government would protect public television and radio budgets while drawing up a “roadmap” for the future of public broadcasting in the country.

In the short term, the model VAT financing agreement would allocate a ‘fraction’ of the tax revenue – about €3.7 billion – to the budget of the public broadcaster, about the same as the sector receives through the license fee.

However, senators from various parties across the political spectrum said there was no concrete strategy to secure long-term funding.

While some agreed that the license fee was outdated, they warned that the bill was rushed and ill-prepared.

Jean-Raymond Hugonet of the right-wing party Les Républicains said: “We had a president who wanted to be re-elected and who proposed something very popular: abolish a worn-out and unjust tax that no one wanted anymore.”

Socialist Senator David Assouline said: “The stakes are high in our society, where there is a high concentration of private broadcasters and foreign platforms, which means we need to strengthen public broadcasting.”

He said that while Culture Minister Malak praised the public broadcaster, the bill he supported “creates the conditions to weaken it”.

French Communist Party Senator Pierre Ouzoulias said public broadcasting is “essential to contribute to the mission of independence” of information.

France’s vote to scrap the fee is part of a larger effort to address the country’s growing cost of living crisis, which is being felt across Europe. The total budget package is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

Other measures in the £20bn inflation relief package – passed so far in the French lower house – include extending the existing freeze on gas and electricity prices, lifting pensions, a temporary cap on rent increases and a pay rise for public sector workers.

France’s move comes as Britain is also looking at whether to scrap its own annual UKTN TV license fee of £159, with conservative lawmakers in favor.

In addition, culture secretary Nadine Dorries said earlier this year that the UK government would freeze the license at current levels – and that the funding model could be completely eliminated by 2027.

With Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rushi Sunak currently competing to become the country’s next prime minister, current plans may change.

However, Ms Truss said this week she is ‘concerned’ about the number of people being prosecuted for failing to pay the fee – which could result in a £1,000 fine or even jail time – suggesting her stance is unlikely to soften. be the man she hopes to replace – Boris Johnson.



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