Left-wing and small parties shunned by French TV on eve of EU elections

France televisions

France television vehicles. [jean-louis Zimmermann/Flickr]

The French audiovisual authority CSA has raised the alarm over the amount of speaking time allocated to EU election candidates on national television and other media. The vote is in ten days, but small parties, the Greens and the far-left have been underrepresented, it argues. EURACTIV France reports.

On 14 May, the CSA denounced the “serious imbalances in the distribution of speaking-time” between candidates for the EU elections. According to the board, the principle of equity is not being enforced.

The CSA is an official authority whose role is to ensure the “plurality in opinions expressed” in national radio and television broadcasting.

Small and left-wing parties pushed aside

Television media coverage between 14 April and 9 May has been distributed unequally between different political groups and their candidates, the CSA contended. 

The audiovisual authority highlighted that certain political groups have still not benefited from air time, and therefore it “fervently alerted the heads of TV and radio channels, notably private channels, of the need to respect the principle of equity before the end of the application period of the n° 2014-2 recommendation (2 April 2014), and to efficiently represent political groups that have presented candidates for the European elections. They have ten days to carry this out.”

The CSA also said that it gave detailed feedback to television and radio stations.

There is a tendency to overexpose the big parties, like the centre-right UMP ,or the Socialist Party (PS), but also the far-right National Front.

According to statistics released by the CSA on television, radio and information channel coverage time between 14 April and 9 May, left-wing parties receive significantly less air time. The Green Party, which had 17 MEPs in the last mandate, has also been left on the sidelines.

“Nobody invites us. Sometimes stations only contact the three main parties, which gives a right-wing tendency to the whole campaign,” said a spokesman for the Green party.

Right-wing over-representation

France Info, a 24-hours all-news radio channel, committed 21% of coverage to the National Front, compared to just 17% to the Socialist Party and 20% to the UMP. Added to the 6.2% dedicated to Arise the Republic, the French right received 47% of speaking time on France’s biggest radio station. When the centrist alliance between the MoDem and UDI is added, it accounts for 70% of the station’s coverage of the EU elections.

In comparison, the Left Front of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has had no air time between 14 and 9 May.

This significant imbalance is also present in television, where there has been a noticeable drop in coverage of the Green Party. The Green party Europe Ecologie – Les Verts (EELV) featured briefly on France 3, but not at all on the two biggest TV channels TF1 or France 2 between April 14 and May 9.

“We oppose the right and far-right on some key issues, such as immigration. We cannot even communicate our political projects,” said Karima Delli, spokesperson for the Green Party during the EU elections.

Karima Delli, the Green Party’s main candidate for the Ile-de-France constituency, has only appeared on one France 3 show (14 May) in the first month of the EU elections. “There were four of us and the debate focused on immigration!”

>> Read: Profile: Karima Delli, Activist and MEP

She also points out that politicians holding numerous mandates are prioritised, while party heads are always invited. The accumulation of mandates is against Green Party rules.

“The CSA alert has to be taken seriously, because it exposes a real democratic problem”, Delli said.

Little air time for European elections

The private national French TV channel, TF1, sets itself apart from the others by giving political affairs very little air time. 14.4 minutes was given to the PS, the UMP and the National Front. No time at all was given to the small, centrists or far-left parties.

Candidates have also denounced the total coverage time of the election campaign.

“The CSA probably should have raised the alarm over the lack of campaign coverage when the three national channels had managed to dedicated just 2h20 on the subject. This stands out in comparison to paid publicity in newspapers,” stated Corinne Le Page, member of Europe Citoyenne.

The Europe Citoyenne party questions how the CSA is dealing with media speaking time.

A week after the CSA was taken over by the French government, the CSA argued that election campaigns are long and that there were no speaking-time issues. Today, the CSA raised the alarm on speaking time just nine days before the end of the campaign. If time less than 3 minutes is not counted, Europe Citoyenne candidates received no air time on France Info, France Culture, France Musique, Radio Classique, BFM Business, RMC, RTL, Europe 1, Sud Radio, Canal +, M6, D8, RMC Découverte and France 5 news (up until May 9).

According to French law, the CSA must respect equity when it comes to speaking time of candidates for the European elections, and must organize the audio-visual campaign during the build of to the vote.

In a decision on 30 April 2014, the CSA board set out conditions regarding the production, programming and broadcasting of shows relative to the official campaign.

The speaking time of political parties and their candidates will be added up after the six week period between 14 April and 23May 2014.Channem are required to inform the CSA time dedicated to each party five times over this period.

The CSA has a mandate to intervene in case there is an imbalance in media coverage.

  • 25 May 2014: European elections in France

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