by the stormy present
Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 04:25:07 AM EST
Well, it escaped my notice at the time, but apparently several days ago The New York Times discovered that Sarkozy's ties to almost all major French media owners just might have influenced the election:
Free Press in France: The Right to Say What Politicians Want
The debate is an old one in a country where politics, the press and big business have long been intertwined. But the issue of self-censorship has come into sharp relief of late because of declining circulation in the print media and the concentration of media ownership among the new president's close allies
From over there to the right - afew
Mr. Sarkozy's head of communications, Franck Louvrier, scoffed at the suggestions of undue political influence. "There has never been any interference," he said. "Every newspaper can write what it wants."
But in dozens of interviews with French journalists and media executives, a more nuanced picture of French news media has emerged.
A "more nuanced picture." Is that what we're calling it nowadays? Because I thought the phrase used to be, "he's lying."
Philippe Ridet, who covered Mr. Sarkozy's presidential campaign for Le Monde, said he never faced direct pressure. But he recalled how after one of his first campaign rallies, Mr. Sarkozy remarked to a select group of reporters, "It's funny, I know all your bosses."
Ha ha. Yeah. Funny.
A wave of privatizations and the creation of an independent regulator in the 1980s ended routine interference in the news media by the state, but, according to Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, president of the radio network Europe 1, people are still mindful of the past.
"The real subject is self-censorship and excessive zeal," Mr. Elkabbach said.
See? Privatization is good. Now people censor themselves so we don't have to waste precious tax dollars doing it for them. Privatization teaches people to be self-motivated.
OK, seriously now.... This is an issue we've talked about a lot here, and I've also heard some of my offline French friends complain about it with (for me) unexpected rancor. And the Times paints a picture that is increasingly bleak:
Mr. Lagardère's Journal du Dimanche became the emblem of self-censorship last month when its editor, Jacques Espérandieu, spiked the article about Cécilia Sarkozy's failure to vote. Mr. Espérandieu cited privacy concerns, insisting that no one had put pressure on him.
But according to two newsroom witnesses, the editor told journalists that he made the decision after a call from Mr. Lagardère.
At Paris Match, one reporter summed up the magazine's informal policy: "We will not run sensitive scoops, we will pick them up after someone else ran them."
That sounds a little to me like an executive decision to try not to sell papers. It makes zero sense.
But score one for the online world, the New Political Media. The article opens with a reference to Rue89, an "irreverent" political news Web site that the Times says can "counterbalance" the silence of the Big Media. The Times also implies (without actually saying so) that journalists whose pieces are spiked in their mainstream publications are leaking those stories to the website:
It took just a few days for Rue89 to emerge as an online refuge for critical political articles and readers suspicious of cozy ties between the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the country's media barons.
The irreverent, six-week-old news site crashed with heavy traffic after publishing an article about the failure of Mr. Sarkozy's wife, Cécilia, to vote in May in the second round of the presidential election, a scoop too hot for publication by the mainstream Sunday newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche.
"We've become a kind of Amnesty International for censored journalists," said Pierre Haski, a co-founder of the site and a former correspondent for the newspaper Libération.
Not a whisper in the NYT piece, of course, about oh, I dunno, the comfy-cozy relationships between certain OTHER presidents and prime ministers and certain media barons in the English-speaking world. (Or, in the case of one particular leader of the Free World, I guess we have to say he's "allegedly English-speaking.") And God forbid that the Times criticize the idea of news media ownership being increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few super-rich businessmen with political ties.
It's a lot easier to just talk about this as if it only happens in France.