France – Clarification on the regulatory regime applicable to broadcasters using radio-frequencies in case of change of direct or indirect control


On 15 November 2013, French Law n°2013-1028 on the independence of the public audiovisual sector has amended Article 42-3 of Law n°86-1067 of 30 September 1986 on freedom of communications in order to confirm and give legal grounds to the powers of the French media authority (the “Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel ” or “CSA”) in case of change of direct or indirect control of broadcasters using radio-frequencies.

Paragraph 5 of new version of Article 42-3 of Law n°86-1067 provides that any broadcaster holding an authorization from the CSA for the use of radio-frequencies shall request the approval of the CSA in case of change of direct or indirect control, as defined by Article L.233-3 of the French Commercial Code. In addition, in certain cases, the CSA is to perform an impact assessment (including notably an economic analysis) before making any decision. In any case, the decision of the CSA shall be duly justified.

Before the entry into force of Law n°2013-1028, the CSA used in practice to submit any “substantial modification” of the broadcasters’ shareholding to its prior approval. This practice was based on paragraph 1 of Article 42-3 of Law n°86-1067 (still in force) according to which any authorization for the use of radio-frequencies can be withdrawn by the CSA, without prior notice, in case of “substantial modification of the conditions under which it has been granted, notably modification in the composition of the broadcaster’s shareholding“.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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