France Will Remove Ads From Prime Time TV

Television viewing has one constant — commercials. In France though that will soon be a thing of the past in the evening. In Canada though those commercials will remain on your television screen.

French television viewers used to sit down in front of the boob tube in the evening to watch the news and then 15 minutes of solid commercials before prime time shows hit the airwaves at 9 p.m. Last week the 15 minute ad time was taken off the air by the five national public broadcasting channels. There will be no further advertising on television after 89 p.m. In 2011 the French public won’t have to deal with commercials at all.

Don’t expect commercials to leave North America though. That all mighty dollar helps produce your favorite shows.

The CBC in fact is looking to increase their ad revenue.

“If we were to drop advertising, it creates an enormous financial problem,” said Richard Stursberg, vice-president of English services. “And my general sense is there’s very little appetite in Canada to increase money to the CBC from government sources.”

French television cites that creativity was being marred by that almighty buck. The audience will not be getting as many blockbuster movies but will have more culture on their screens.

In Canada the audience tends to want what is going on in the States to be on their own televisions. The Globe and Mail reports:

“The difference between English Canada and France is that the French prefer French shows, and here historically they prefer foreign shows and entertainment programs,” he said.

France also has different requirements for programming than Canadian television. At least 70 percent of what is programmed most be European and 50 percent of that programming most come from France itself. A reform bill is underway to make it so the majority of the European programming takes place during prime time.

The BBC airs its programming without ads. That isn’t reason though the French are taking out the ad dollar.

“Look at the BBC. They don’t have commercials. But at the same time, they run shows that would have no place on our stations,” said Alain Belais, director of international relations at the French broadcaster. “Not having advertising doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t be paying attention to programming that attracts an audience,” he added.

That means that the French will not be subjected to hours of reality shows like the Brits are. Just a few hours. Heck, like the silly cousins across the pond are. Of course those silly cousins don’t have the flair that the French have either.

The French debate is conducted in the language of ‘culture’ and ‘creation’ rather than in terms of the audience, where in Britain it’s seen as important that the BBC offers something that appeals to everyone,” said David Levy, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University in London and the only non-French member of the commission that proposed the France Télévisions reform.

Last year the top audience grabbing shows in France’s France 2 was a French movie Camping, Without a Trace, a television movie about a Maupassant story and the French-British rugby match.

In France only 30% of broadcasting budgets come from advertising revenues. The bulk of its $733 million funding comes from a tax of $189 on television sets. The French are also debating on using different sources to fund productions.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to start taxing Internet providers and the private TV stations’ ad revenues to help make up that 30 percent that will be lost.

“I think advertisers are going to invest less overall,” said Rémi Babinet, the head of BETC, France’s biggest ad agency. “So there won’t be a transfer of the public television advertising spending to the private channels.”

The CBC is also looking for ways to supplement ad revenue that has been lost due to economic crisis.

“I’ve been in the TV business for a long time and in my life I’ve never seen a fall as precipitous as this one,” said Richard Stursberg, vice-president of English services. “We won’t get more money [from the government] so we’re trying to figure out a smart way through these challenges.”


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