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Sarkozy Hangs-In, Centre-stage

  • January 6th, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

sarkozy_officielle2.jpgThe French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has shelved problems at home for the moment, setting out to cut a large figure on the international stage, in the Middle East.

Critics asked if the man was having trouble weaning himself off a starring role as last year’s President of the European Council – while in France, a pet project of President Sarkozy, the removal of commercials from state-owned television, has taken effect.


France’s one-man peace mission took him on a circuit to Cairo, Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Observers say they saw some empathy, remarkably, with very different, and differing people he saw, though there was criticism too in European news media: was this a “self-appointed leader for times of crisis”, a shadow European President, perhaps a “messianic saviour”?

Just five days out of the EU Presidency, if not now freelancing, de facto in that role he was operating in parallel with the peace mission sent by Brussels on about the same itinerary – under the Czech Presidency installed for the coming six months.


France’s four government-owned television chains have accepted the ban imposed on night-time advertising, with all advertisements on those chains set to be gone by 2011.

The move comes with another change that will give the government new power to install directors for the state-owned outlets.

It has generated fears of a return to the old order of the government-controlled media conglomerate, ORTF, which, a monopoly in those days, ran toothless news, a nightly film, and little of any innovative strength.

Changes in the 1980s set up more chains and enabled the government ones to get their own revenue through advertising.

They also set up a system of commercial chains, TF1 becoming the largest of those, and now positioned to reap a huge bonanza as the one main outlet able to sell time on air.

Government leaders have promised to find a revenue stream through charges imposed on advertising on the internet or cell phones, but that field is fairly untried; so the fears persist that French public TV will become repressed, under-resourced and boring to watch.

That will be a poor opiate for thousands of newly unemployed; projections for the French economy for 2009 and beyond indicate prospects for a further economic down-turn and growth in joblessness.


Le Monde
, Paris, “Que rôle peut jouer Nicolas Sarkozy au Proche-Orient ?” (What role can Sarkozy play in the Middle East?), 5.1.09.

Angelique Chrisafis, “Strikes planned as French public sector broadcasters ditch advertising”, The Guardian, London, 5.1.09., (6.1.09).

Picture: Nicolas Sarkozy, official portrait.