In 1992, France passed a governmental measure that forbids news programs to promote commercial enterprises on the air. This is to prevent “secret – and unfair – advertising.” The government specifically called out Facebook and Twitter, prohibiting news anchors from mentioning those words unless they were specifically part of a story. No “follow us on Twitter” plugs here.
This is in great contrast to the United States, where every television show, movie, product, brand, and celebrity is always inviting us to follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page. What can news anchors say to connect viewers with social media (since this is where more and more people are actually getting their news rather than tuning in at 7:00)? “Find us on social networking sites” or “check out website to find links to social networks.”
The French TV regulatory agency, the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) says they are simply upholding the law, adding, “Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition? This would be a distortion of competition.”
While the CSA feels they are just doing what they have to under the letter of the law, British-Canadian journalist, Mathew Fraser, says that they are obsessed with “legalistic codes and decrees” that are typical of the “Kafkaesque nightmare” that is the French bureaucracy. French bloggers tend to agree. Loic Le Meur says, “French regulation forbids TV networks to say Facebook or Twitter? My country is screwed.” Another noted that this gives Americans “yet another reason to laugh at France.”
Americans aren’t laughing, but they are wondering. Why can’t news organizations promote their online content since, again, that is where more of the population is receiving news? Ian Crouch writes in a blog post for the New Yorker: “Sending one’s audience out wandering in the woods of the Web – ‘look for us on whatever social-media site you prefer to use, we might be there’ – has never been good for the bottom line, or for the news media’s other business of informing the public.”