I was one of those lefties who, prior to the presidential election, actually thought Nicolas Sarkozy had some refreshing ideas, and that he recognized problems which the calcified mainstraim Left was incapable of recognizing — e.g., the abundance of civil servants was strangling and even putting out of business many of the small-business holders 60 percent of whose taxes went to pay for them. Since then, I’ve learned that when Sarko is trying to get you to look at the shiny ball in one hand, you should be looking at what he’s doing with the other.
At the president’s famous January press conference — the one where the candidate of purchase power become the president who said he couldn’t do anything about the loss of purchase power when the cash box was empty — he quickly deterred press attention from that one by announcing he wanted to ban commecials from public television. Now, public television here in France is a bit different from public television in the United States, to the point that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two main public stations and the two private channels; TF1, the biggest private one, shows Law & Order, while public channel France 2 shows Cold Case and its confrere France 3 the nightly Marseille-based soap Plus Belle la Vie. Cutting out the commercials from the publics would definitley make a major distinction.
You’d think this might produce celebratory parades from the personnel involved, but instead it’s produced demonstrations because of fear of how they’d replace the lost income and thus stay viable. (And of course, since the personnel involved are also in charge of reporting the news, we’ve not seen one report of a citizen saying “No commercials? Great!”) The president appointed a bi-partisan commission (from which the Socialists resigned after Sarkozy said raising the t.v. tax was not a possibility) and when earlier this week they came out with their proposals for replacing that income, the president tried to slip another idea in there: Henceforth, the president of France Televisions would be appointed by… Moi! (Euh, not moi Paul Ben-Itzak but moi the president.) Not to worry, his supporters assured; the appointment would be subject to parliamentary approval. Never mind that the parliament is dominated by the president’s party. As usual, and thankfully, my hero Francois Bayrou, head of the Movement Democratique, was there to call this what it is: “It’s a plan for a seizure of power of television by the (governmental) power. (Public) television will be susceptible to pressure from the political power and therefore strangled.”