The French are said to be in a bad mood but perhaps it is their press which is miserableby John Lloyd / January 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
The French newspaper press is in danger-or so it says. It may really be in danger of having to do something about its current condition. But its first reaction is to ask the government for help.
A flurry of demands has been addressed these past weeks from the grand personages of the press to the president and the prime minister. Yves de Chaisemartin, head of the Hersant group which includes the daily Figaro, wrote last month to Alain Jupp? on behalf of his fellow press bosses, asking if the government still had “the will to preserve a pluralist, independent daily press.” In the same month, Bernard Porte, head of Bayard press and the president of the National Federation of the French press, wrote in La Croix, under the headline “Put out the fire!”, that the survival of many newspapers was now in doubt.
The government is exciting the anger not just of the leftish dailies such as Le Monde and Lib?ration-both of which have been hard hit financially over the past decade-but also the traditionally prosperous regional newspapers, for many the preferred choice over the Parisian dailies. These newspapers tend towards the right. Jacques Chirac launched his campaign for the presidency in 1994 not in a national newspaper, but in La Voix du Nord.
The relations between the regional press and the right are in fact stiflingly close. The annual party given by the Union of the Daily Regional Press at the beginning of every political season has, for the past two years, had both the president and the prime minister in attendance. This year, Chirac and Jupp? used the occasion to lament loudly that the national press was now aiming at nothing less than the destabilisation of the government, and was exercising a negative influence on the morale of the nation. It was denigrating the political class through so-called exposures of erring politicians-even the rightwing Figaro did not escape a whipping. Only the sports and business papers were excepted from their strictures-and, of course, the sound and sensible regional press.
But the amity did not last. In a recent editorial in La Nouvelle R?publique du Centre-Ouest, the president of the regional union, Jacques Saint-Cricq, claimed that the government was driven by a “conscious wish to damage the newspapers.” His director general, Jean Viansson-Pont?, spoke in October of deep bitterness in relations between press and government and an “unprecedented…