France TV president Marc Tessier isn’t wasting time preparing for the country’s inauguration into the digital age of broadcasting. In mid-May, the Paris-based company revealed plans to invest Fr 1.5 billion (US$28 million) in six new channels set to launch in November 2001. One channel will broadcast only news and has a reported budget of Fr 200 million (US$28 million), another will be a regional channel focusing on local areas within France, and a third will deliver sports coverage. La Sept/ARTE is collaborating in the development of an arts channel, and educational pubcaster La Cinquième is navigating the creation of a youth channel. Less clear are plans surrounding a sixth channel, which is expected to feature the best of French public TV, airing programs from France 2, France 3 and La Cinquième.
In addition to contributing to the new digital stations, both La Cinq and La Sept/ARTE will move to 24-hour transmissions in November 2001. The pubcasters presently share a terrestrial signal, with La Cinq broadcasting between 6:45 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and La Sept/ARTE airing between 7:00 p.m. and midnight. ‘We have a 24-hour satellite service, but when we go digital in 2001 it will be different, we’ll have to adapt,’ says Ann Julienne, La Cinq’s head of acquisitions and coproductions.
Both Julienne and Tessier are also awaiting a decision from the committee reviewing plans to create a holding company to govern French pubcasters. An official ruling will be announced at the end of the month, at which time it is expected Tessier will be named chairman. The new company will see France 2, France 3 and La Cinq operating within a single organization. ‘There has been a lot of talk that the channels will retain their identities, and we do have very different identities,’ says Julienne. ‘But, undoubtedly there will be a lot more synergy.’