June 15, 2021

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Piracy law: in the National Assembly, no privilege for TF1-M6

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There will be no provision that could facilitate or hinder the M6-TF1 merger. This is the meaning of certain amendments tabled on the audiovisual law, both by the government and by Aurore Bergé, rapporteur for the text.

While the examination of the bill relating to “the regulation and protection of access to cultural works in the digital age” – which notably strengthens the fight against piracy and creates the Arcom (merger of the Conseil Superior of Audiovisual and Hadopi) – begins this Monday in the Committee on Cultural Affairs of the National Assembly, the deputies should “unravel” on what was added by the Upper House.

The Senate, predominantly on the right and in the center, had indeed voted for the text in May, by introducing articles which were in line with requests from M6, now in the process of merging with TF1.

Change of control

The Senate had allowed a change of control within five years of issuance of a broadcasting license. Clearly, M6 could be sold after May 2023, when its authorization is renewed.

But, the government just like Aurore Bergé, LREM MP for Yvelines, oppose it via their amendments. “We should not give the signal that the legislator intends to encourage or favor the merger,” she said.

At the same time, the current version of the text – post Senate therefore – provides that Arcom can once again automatically extend for five years the authorizations to broadcast television. While those of TF1 and M6 expire in May 2023, the Senate avoided the two groups having to submit to a call for tenders, a long procedure, which must begin in 2022.

In their amendments, the government like Aurore Bergé want to return to the initial version: that is to say an automatic renewal only for five years – and not two – after a first authorization of 10 years. “There is too great a risk of litigation at European level, as TF1 thinks in particular”, she specifies. Clearly, avoid creating legal uncertainty, in a context where the Competition Authority must rule by the summer of 2022.

Maintain the producer / television channel “balance”

In another register, on the thorny subject of producer / television channel relations, the MP intends to “recast” an article introduced by the Senate which aimed to give more rights to the latter. Specifically, the Senate gave them the possibility of having more co-production shares and marketing mandates.

Aurore Bergé seeks to maintain the “balance” that existed on this point before the passage of the law in the Senate. “Independent production is a model that we intend to preserve. Today, the channels can already hold the mandates, it should not be automatic tomorrow, at the risk of considerably weakening production and diversity ”.

This subject could be heated from the perspective of the joint joint committee at the beginning of July, because in the Senate, we really want to move the lines.

Hacking: no criminal transaction

On the issue of piracy, the Senate had introduced the principle of penal settlement. He voted for a fine of 350 euros (1,050 for a legal person) in the event of repeated breaches, to touch the wallet of Internet users, without going through the courts.

But, the government wants the removal of this device. “The real problem is the counterfeit sites which generate extremely important revenues”, explains the government. The bill thus provides for blacklists of sites and more automatic sanctions against mirror sites.

Above all, this type of measure directly targeting the Internet user is sensitive and unpopular one year from the presidential election, even more in recent months, in the context of confinement.

Anti-concentration thresholds raised

On the other hand, Aurore Bergé will support provisions relating to changes in anti-concentration thresholds in radio (the ceiling had been raised from 150 to 160 million inhabitants) and in local television (from 12 to 20 million).

In total, more than 200 amendments were introduced before the examination by the Committee on Cultural Affairs. In the hemicycle, it will begin from June 22.

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