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14-03-2012 19:42:00

French TV Generally Gives Candidates Equal Time - Regulator

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By Thomas Varela

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

PARIS -(Dow Jones)- The French broadcasting regulator said TV stations have generally made efforts to respect the rule on giving equal time to presidential candidates during the election campaign.

The Superior Broadcasting Council, or CSA, did criticize M6 (MMT.FR) TV station and some of the local units of state-owned TV channel France 3 for "persistent biases."

CSA said the concentration of coverage on the two leading candidates, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande, has fallen notably at some general TV channels.

The so-called equity principle, which requires broadcasters to grant each candidate on-air time in proportion to his or her electoral weight, is enforced between Jan. 1 and March 19, one day before the official publication of the list of candidates. After March 20, a strict equality between candidates must be respected.

Centrist candidate Francois Bayrou and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen were granted more time on air by M6 than they should have been given, CSA said. Bayrou and his supporters appeared in 22.1% of the time news shows dedicated to the election campaign, while Le Pen got 21.5%. According to all the polls, these two candidates were below 20% in voter support over the past few months. Sarkozy, with 17.2%, and Hollande, with 10.8%, were underrepresented in M6 news shows.

A spokesman for M6 declined to comment.

The opposite happened in election coverage on France 3, where no one was available for comment.

CSA said it will summon the representatives of M6 and France 3, which have until Tuesday to balance their coverage.

On the three French news channels, BFM TV, i-Tele and LCI, the two leading candidates were overrepresented, CSA said.

BFM TV is owned by Next Radio TV (NXTV.FR), LCI belongs to TF1 (TFI.FR), a unit of Bouygues SA (EN.FR), and i-Tele is controlled by Vivendi (VIV.FR).

-By Thomas Varela, Dow Jones Newswires; +33 1 4017 1740; thomas.varela@dowjones.com

--Inti Landauro contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 14, 2012 15:42 ET (19:42 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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