A new French law adopted on 15 November 2013 has granted the French media authority (the “Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel” or “CSA”) the power to authorize a pay DTT channel to migrate to free DTT.
Justified notably by considerations of information pluralism, paragraph 4 of new version of Article 42-3 of Law No. 86-1067 of 30 September 1986 on freedom of communications provides that the CSA can approve a modification of the economic conditions relating to any authorization for the use of radio-frequencies for broadcasting purposes, where such modification implicates charging or eliminating viewer subscription fees.
Prior to rendering its decision, the CSA must (i) perform a public impact assessment, including notably an economic analysis, and (ii) hold public hearings of the applicant and any third party who requests. In addition, the CSA has to take into account the situation of the advertising market with respect to terrestrial hertzian services.
In this context, TF1 has petitioned to swap its LCI news channel from pay to free DTT. If the CSA approves this migration, LCI will enter into direct competition with two other French free news channels, BFMTV (NextRadioTV group) and i-Télé (Canal+ group). Likewise, M6 has petitioned to swap its entertainment channel Paris Première from pay to free DTT.