France is one of the European leaders in its indiscriminate public aid of the press. It seems that this situation cannot last at a time of budget penury. Michel Françaix, a socialist MP in charge of the budget of public subsidies of the press has just published his very useful annual report and seems to agree.
What does he say? That a great part of these generous subsidies go to publications which have no connexions with general citizens'information.As an example, he shows that the numerous TV magazines collect as much as 53 millions euros of privileged postal rates. 35% of the public aid goes to magazines, most of them beeing purely commercial businesses while the national and regional dailies receive only 39% of the total aid.
The situation is not better as far as the press distribution is concerned. The government subsidizes heavily the postal service which is less and less efficient and Presstalis which is collapsing and reduces its aid to the home delivery service which is the best solution for carrying newspapers to their customers.
The failure of Groupe Hersant and Presstalis shows very clearly that the public subsidies service is both costly and inefficient. Many European countries, small like Norway or big like Germany are host to dynamic media groups eager to invest and increase their presence on Internet and yet, they get much less public support than in France. What France needs is a creative public policy that will promote pluralism and self development. The Françaix report suggests some solutions. Lets hope the prime minister and the president will listen.