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.