TF1 channel can go free, Canal+ refused

French media regulator the CSA has given a green light for TF1-owned news channel LCI to become a free-to-air service, but has rejected requests from Canal+ and M6 Group to enable their respective channels, factual service Planète+ and entertainment channel Paris Première, to make the same transition.

The CSA said that it had judged that LCI had no viable future as a pay TV channel and that its transition to a free service will contribute to media pluralism and is in the public interest.

However, the media regulator said that the migration of the two other channels is not justified.

Canal+ expressed its disappointment with the decision, and said that it represented a serious blow to Planète+ and said that the factual genre was one of the most under-represented on the free digital-terrestrial platform.

The Vivendi-owned broadcast group said that the decision had isolated Planète+ on the now diminished DTT pay platform and added that it had not given up the goal of one seeing the channel become part of an enlarged free-to-air platform.

Canal+ also said that viewers had now been given a larger choice of free services only in a genre that is already over-represented – namely, news.

Canal+ said that its own free news channel iTélé would find it more difficult to break even in a genre that is costly to produce against the context of a declining advertising market. It said that the viability of the news channels as a group was now in question.

M6 Group said that the decision to refuse Paris Première’s transition to a free-to-air service for the third time was contrary to the public interest. It said that the channel’s migration to free-to-air would have contributed to the diversity of the audiovisual landscape in France and reinforced the free offering.

The company said that the channel’s future had now been put in peril, and added that it would appeal the decision with the Conseil d’État.

TF1, unsurprisingly, welcomed the CSA’s decision. It said that the conditions set by the CSA, which had been proposed by the broadcaster, are compatible with its successful move to the free-to-air platform. TF1 has committed to invest €20 million (US$21.6 million) in the now free-to-air channel in 2016, with a goal of breaking even by 2019.

“I thank the CSA for this decision, which offers LCI, pioneer of news services, the possibility of being accessible to all on the free DTT platform and opening a new page in its history. I am delighted for the contributors and for pluralism in France,” said Nonce Paolini, CEO of TF1 Group.

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