AFP not so happy with the F

There’s a slowly-brewing online campaign (a petition with about 3,000 signatures on it) to “save” the Agence France-Presse news agency from evil plans by the French government that currently controls it at arms-length. I heard about it, of course, through an AFP story carried in Le Devoir. (Seriously, folks, what’s with news agencies reporting on themselves?)

To those of you (like myself) who were surprised that one of the world’s largest wire services was owned by a government, this has apparently sort of been the case for half a century now. But AFP is legally independent of the French government, with laws in place to ensure its independence. It’s an arrangement that’s even more arms-length than the Canadian government’s relationship with the CBC.

What France is trying to do isn’t take direct control of AFP but to privatize it, presumably to reduce its reliance on government funding.

AFP’s protection squad is also against privatization, which might also negatively affect its journalism. Whereas AFP has the best coverage of Africa currently (from what I’ve seen looking through their stories as a Gazette copy editor), they might be pressured to start changing their focus toward more celebrity gossip (as AP is being pressured to do).

I sympathize, but it seems these people are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t want to be controlled by the government, but they want the government to fund them.

3 thoughts on “AFP not so happy with the F

  1. Josh

    I sympathize, but it seems these people are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t want to be controlled by the government, but they want the government to fund them.

    So, basically what you’re saying is that when it comes right down to it, all arms-length crown corporations are indefensible? Any organization that gets its funding from a government but which wants independence from the goverment – that can’t really be justified?

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  2. Marc-Olivier

    Il n’y a pas que l’AFP qui a du souci à se faire en France. L’AP cherche à se débarrasser de son service local en français, qui perd un million d’euros par an. Vincent Bolloré, grand industriel français qui tente en ce moment d’ériger son petit empire médiatique, s’est déjà montré intéressé, mais son projet de relance inquiète. Il souhaite faire de l’AP France une agence de presse low cost pour faire concurrence à l’AFP. Pas de saine émulation entre rivaux dans ce nouveau paysage, mais plutôt une réduction des standards journalistiques.

    Quant à l’AFP, son indépendance face au pouvoir est toute relative. Des dépêches qui ressemblent plus à des communiqués qu’autre chose sont diffusées sur son fil. Cette complaisance est sans doute le prix à payer pour une couverture internationale ambitieuse.

    Dans ce contexte, la privatisation de l’AFP n’augure rien de bon. Le climat est plutôt à la mise au pas de la presse en France. Le projet de retrait de la publicité sur les chaînes de télévision publiques présentement à l’étude à l’Assemblée nationale, une bonne chose en soi, vise en fait à accroître le contrôle du gouvernement sur ce qui se dit à l’antenne. Le privé n’est pas mieux loti. Nicolas Sarkozy a obtenu cet été le renvoi de PPDA, le présentateur depuis plus de 20 ans du journal télévisé de TF1, une chaîne qui se montre rarement critique à l’égard du gouvernement.

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