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France: Media System

Philippe J. Maarek


In its 543,965 square kilometers and some overseas dependencies, France has a population of 63 million. Currently under its Fifth Republic, a semi-presidential, semi-parliamentary political system, and a founding member of the European Union, it is a democracy of long standing. As early as 1789, freedom of speech was one of the main claims of the French Revolution, with its famous article 11: “Freedom of speech and opinions is one of the most precious Human Rights; any citizen may then freely speak, write, print, unless he has to answer for an abuse of that freedom in the specific cases determined by Law.” Nevertheless, the French media system's independence from the state came only at the end of the twentieth century. As a consequence, nowadays, the French media system is sometimes still unbalanced by its new freedom. Print media – mainly the printed press, but also posters, etc. – have been ruled by a set of laws and government decrees based on the law of July 29, 1881, which established freedom of the press and printed material as a principle. The only limits are set by specific laws protecting minors or protecting individuals from defamation. For the audiovisual media, the case is different: freedom of radio and television is not a very natural state of affairs in France. Television and radio were a state monopoly for most of the twentieth century. The system started to come ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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