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Journalism Government

Sarkozy’s Bid to Bottle Up the Media

Television, courtesy of dailyinvention/flickr

Perhaps Nicolas Sarkozy has always been a political figure excessively focused on publicity, ratings and the attention of the media. Yet, as of late President Sarkozy has started to open up about his ambitions of becoming the puppeteer of the French media landscape, grasping for control of some of the most influential institutions of the French press.

In short, President Sarkozy tried to become the majority shareholder of Le Monde (a renowned newspaper), he changed the law in order to be able to appoint the director of France Télévisions (the publicly-owned syndicate who, among others, controls France 2 and France 3), and he might be able to exert direct influence on Agence France-Presse (the third largest news agency in the world) if the latter successfully turns into a public firm.

It seems legitimate to ask whether France is currently going through a similar process of centralization of media control as Italy under Berlusconi. Despite all the evidence suggesting that this is the case, the situation in France is still different. While major parts of Italian media remain under the direct control of Berlusconi, the French media is dominated by small parts of the French establishment instead. Unlike Berlusconi, Sarkozy is not (yet) a majority shareholder of any private media companies and as the Guardian notes, he relies on a powerful network of close friends who are instead.

Categories
Journalism Elections

Italian Media Monopoly

Silvio Berlusconi, photo: vas vas/flickr

When speaking of press freedom, Western European countries usually score highest in rankings from institutions like Freedom House or Reporters Without Borders. They are all declared as “free” with one notable exception: Italy.

In the 2009 report Freedom House downgraded Italy from “free” to “partly free”, highlighting worrisome trends that have been underlined by recent events.

In February of this year four managers from Google Italy’s YouTube branch had to stand trial because of accusations regarding privacy violations. This was only one month after Italian officials proposed a new law against online copyright infringement which holds responsible companies that host and broadcast copyright protected content illegally (i.e. YouTube). Meanwhile, Google is still engaged in a similar legal dispute with Mediaset, a private media corporation controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

On 2 March 2010 the administrative council of Italy’s public television network RAI announced that two popular political talk shows will not be allowed to broadcast for one month until regional elections are over. State officials justified the decision by pointing to a law that guarantees equal opportunity of representation on public media channels to all parties. However, opponents argue that the decision is purely political as the two talk shows “Anno Zero” and “Balla-rò” have heavily criticized Berlusconi in the past.