Sunday, July 08, 2007

 

Military-Industrial-Media Complex

When a couple of articles in the English-language press recently talked about the control of the media in France, I started to collate them and build from there.  The English-language articles mostly noted concern that there may be unhealthy (for a democracy) self-censorship by media controlled almost entirely by friends of President Sarkozy. While this is true, and the articles did include some information about the president's friends and their fortunes, they didn't really make it clear that the media in France are controlled by companies that do a lot of business with the government, particularly in defense. After a while, I gave up: too much research, and no clear and unassailable case of a true Big Brother risk or military-industrial-media complex (I also discovered after a while that the Nouvel Observateur had published the complete research compilation I was trying to approximate on June 27th).

Since then, there has been a "scandal", which I haven't seen reported outside France (but maybe I didn't look good, as my 8th grade English teacher said). It involved a close collaborator of Mr. Sarkozy, Patrick Devedjian, whose name is last found in New York Times and Independent UK searches in 2004 (the two which ran the first articles), so I think my hunch that this story didn't make much foreign news is probably right.

Well, here's the deal: Mr. Devedjian was in Lyon, being filmed by a local TV station as he was introduced to the member of his party (the President's majority party, UMP) who defeated Anne-Marie Comparini, a centrist (MoDem). Devedjian congratulated him for beating this "salope" (I'd say "slut" is a decent translation to English). It was broadcast locally, and then appeared on Dailymotion, a French YouTube competitor. The sound is not great, and it seems that "salope" was "enhanced" to be better heard than the rest of what he said, but he hasn't denied he said it. Devedjian apologized, and made a lot of fuss about the "totalitarian" aspect of Internet and invasion of privacy. But (putting on my paranoid thinking cap), what if he got embarrassed deliberately to demonstrate that Sarko et cie. don't really control have a full choke-hold on the media in France?

Daniel Schneidermann wrote about the incident in Liberation, and seems to take the bait. Internet may not reveal everything of importance, and this "event" is not really important, but it is better than nothing.

I'm not yet ready to scrap the paranoid hypothesis.


Meanwhile, what I'd started to collate, and the two articles that inspired me:

  • Arnaud Lagardère, owner of the Hachette publishing group, with a portfolio of important titles such as Paris-Match, Elle and Le Journal du Dimanche; and also stakes in international publishing houses, like Orion in Britain. Mr. Lagardère’s company is a military contractor and media company. Lagardère's "military contractor" business is EADS, of which he owns 14.98 %. His father created Matra (Mécanique Aviation Traction) in 1937. It was a Matra (Mach 1,4) that made the first supersonic flight in Europe in 1951. In 1961, Matra became the first European producer of satellites. Following growth and acquisitions, it became Aérospatiale Matra, which merged with Aeronauticas SA and DaimlerChryser Aerospace AG to form EADS in July, 2000.  Since 2006, they own 20% of Canal+, the leading pay-TV operator in France.
  • There is also Serge Dassault, heir to an aeronautic empire [the exclusive supplier of the French air force] and owner of Le Figaro.
  • Martin Bouygues, head of TF1, the first French TV channel, and LCI, the first 24-hour news channel. Bouygues, a leading global construction company, which builds and maintains roads and other public infrastructure, controls TF1, the leading French network.



From "Cécilia Sarkozy: The First Lady vanishes" (Independent.co.uk)
Indeed, Nicolas' close friends include Martin Bouygues, head of TF1, the first French TV channel, and LCI, the first 24-hour news channel. Martin is the godfather of Nicolas and Cécilia's son, Louis. Then there is Arnaud Lagardère, owner the Hachette publishing group, with a portfolio of important titles such as Paris-Match, Elle and Le Journal du Dimanche; and also stakes in international publishing houses, like Orion in Britain. There is also Serge Dassault, heir to an aeronautic empire and owner of Le Figaro. And Bernard Arnault, the aforementioned head of the luxury group LVMH, who has just announced his intention to buy Les Echos, the French equivalent of the Financial Times, from the Pearson group. The list of the President's powerful friends is long, so long that most French journalists, authors and commentators have worked at some point in their career for those men.

"It's even worse than that," says one political commentator who wants to remain anonymous, "if you thought the publicly owned media, such as France Television and Radio France, were safe havens from political meddling, think again. There are well-known Sarkozysts in place there too, like Arlette Chabot, the news editor of France 2. At least the trade unions are more powerful there."


From the NY Times: Free Press in France: The Right to Say What Politicians Want
... 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.

Among them are Arnaud Lagardère, who calls Mr. Sarkozy a “brother”; Martin Bouygues, a godfather to Mr. Sarkozy’s 10-year-old son; and Vincent Bolloré, who lent the president his jet and yacht for a postelection holiday.

Mr. Lagardère’s company is a military contractor and media company that owns Le Journal du Dimanche, the only national Sunday paper in France, as well as the glossy magazine Paris Match and Europe 1 radio. Bouygues, a leading global construction company, controls TF1, the leading French network.



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