Tuesday, June 7, 2011

France bans Twitter and Facebook from TV

Like broadcasters elsewhere, French news anchors sometimes urge viewers or listeners to visit Twitter or Facebook to receive updates or to comment.

In a decree issued last week, the regulatory agency that oversees French television and radio said broadcasters should not mention the names of specific Internet companies when doing so, calling this a violation of French rules banning surreptitious advertising.

Instead of mentioning these sites by name, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel said, news readers should merely say something like, “Follow us in the social media.” Such a line, the agency said, would have an “informative” rather than “promotional” character.

The decree attracted little attention until bloggers picked up on it, ridiculing what they saw as an example of the convergence of two stereotypes about French officialdom: that it is fond of regulation and wary about the Internet.

The regulator “does not understood that, more than being brands, Twitter and Facebook are public spaces where 25 percent of the French population discuss and exchange information,” wrote Benoît Raphaël, author of a blog called La Social NewsRoom.

The ruling was issued May 27, only days after Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and other Internet executives met with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France at the Elysée Palace in the runup to the Group of 8 summit meeting in Deauville, France.

Mr. Sarkozy called for a “framework” of regulation to govern the Internet globally, an initiative that has drawn resistance from Internet companies.

The decision does not actually bar anchors from mentioning Twitter or Facebook in all cases. If these companies are in the news or if their sites factor into a news story, their names can be uttered, the agency has clarified since the ruling.

“Why do regular promotion for a network that can raise billions of dollars like Facebook and not for another one that has a hard time making itself known?” Christine Kelly, a spokeswoman for the audiovisual regulator, told Agence France-Presse. “We encourage the use of social networks. It’s not a question of banning.”