France’s National Assembly has formally voted to end the €138 ($142) annual TV licence fee (la contribution pour l’audiovisuel public) in favour of a VAT increase.
The bill was passed over the weekend with 170 French MPs in favour and 57 opposed and follows president Emmanuel Macron’s decision to make the end of the licence fee a key pledge in his re-election campaign to “give back purchasing power”.
Once in effect, public broadcasting in the country would be financed by “a fraction” of VAT for a total of around €3.7bn. The existing licence fee will bring in €3.2bn in 2022.
The licence fee currently funds France Télévisions, Radio France, Arte, and international media such as France 24 and RFI.
The change still however needs to be approved in the French senate before it is passed into law and is expected to be put to a vote there in early August.
“We are working hard to abolish taxes that weigh on people,” said Gabriel Attal, the country’s minister of public accounts, adding that the change would “not jeopardise the funding or the independence of public broadcasting”.
However, concerns have already been raised about how the new funding model would impact the independence and financial stability of public news organisations.
The left-wing Nupes political party alliance, which unanimously voted against the bill, raised objections, while La France Insoumise MP Clémentine Autain said it was “a highly political and dangerous measure.”
Staff at France Télévisions and Radio France went on strike last month in protest at the scrapping of the licence fee, which they said would threaten the independence of the channels it funds.