Paris, June 23, 2021 (AFP)
Billionaire Vincent Bollore's bid to shake up the French news media by catering to conservative and right-wing voters is facing resistance from journalists at his next target, one of the country's biggest private radio stations.
Employees at Europe 1 have been on strike since Friday as fears simmer about efforts to shift the station's editorial line under pressure from Bollore.
Underlying the turbulence are moves to bring Europe 1 together with CNews, a rolling news channel launched in 2017 by Bollore's media group that critics have likened to Fox News in the United States.
"Day after day, the station seems to align itself a bit more with the output of CNews," a column published at the weekend by Europe 1 journalists and union representatives said.
Writing in Le Monde newspaper, they described CNews editorial stance as "strongly anchored to the right, even at times to the far right" and warned that Europe 1 risked losing "what is most precious: its credibility among listeners."
Last month, management at the radio station confirmed plans for the first time to create links between the two Bollore-controlled companies, which will see more sharing of programming and on-air talent.
The tie-up is seen as being driven by commercial logic -- struggling Europe 1 has been shedding listeners for years, while CNews with its raft of celebrity presenters is going from strength to strength.
But the possible political consequences of a closely linked radio and TV operation have not been missed by President Emmanuel Macron, who is said to be monitoring events closely ahead of presidential elections next year.
His closest rival is far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is at record highs in the polls.
"If in the future Bollore does exactly what he wants with Europe 1, and does the same thing as he did at CNews, clearly that gives him colossal (political) firepower," said David Medioni, head of a Media Observatory at the Jean-Jaures Foundation, a left-leaning think-tank.
- Clashes and controversies -
The 69-year-old Bollore, who is close to former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, recently took over Europe 1 after his media group Vivendi built up a controlling stake in its owner, the Lagardere conglomerate.
Bollore has a range of business interests, having grown a family papermill into a global empire, but his media-buying spree in France in recent years and his success with CNews have put him in a bright public spotlight.
The news channel has captured attention because of its strategy of focusing on noisy debates, as well as its choice of personnel and allegedly partisan news coverage.
"What counts is creating a buzz, the clashes, the controversies, that's how the channel has been able to impose itself," said Medioni.
It has surged in popularity and now rivals long-term market leader BFM TV, even surpassing it on several days in May, according to Mediametrie, a media consultancy.
Its biggest star -- and a nightly ratings magnet -- is far-right ideologue Eric Zemmour, who co-hosts a debate show that often focuses on crime and immigration.
The outspoken TV personality was responsible for a 200,000-euro ($240,000-) fine for the channel in March after he called underage asylum seekers thieves, killers and rapists on air.
"CNews no longer hides from being a sort of French version of Fox News. It's becoming more and more obvious," said Arnaud Mercier, a communications professor at the French Press Institute at Pantheon-Assas University in Paris.
But the channel hotly disputes this.
"Cnews is absolutely nothing like (Fox News). We aren't a campaigning channel," director general Serge Nedjar told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in January in a rare interview.
Its success was down to tackling issues that others shied away from, he said.
"From the start and without changing, we were the only ones to cover some of the sensitive, even explosive, social issues like security, immigration, the environment and urban violence, questions that our rivals baulked at covering."
Sumber : AFP