France Orders Broadcasters to Un-Like Facebook, Unfollow Twitter

By Joseph Castro | June 8, 2011 11:24 am


What’s the News: Radio and television broadcasters in France must soon abandon self-promoting messages like, “Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.” The French equivalent of the FCC, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), is banning the mention of specific social-networking sites on the radio or TV. While this rule applies to all online social networks, the ruling was directed at the juggernauts Facebook and Twitter.

“Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are other social networks that are struggling for recognition,” explains CSA spokeswoman Christine Kelly (via the Guardian).

The Criticisms:

  • Bloggers sounded off on the news, ridiculing the CSA and saying they failed to understand that millions of French people have a legitimate desire to share information on Facebook and Twitter. French blogger Benoît Raphael said that the CSA is “giving Americans yet another reason to laugh at France.”
  • Blogger Matthew Fraser in Paris was quick to claim that this move is another example of France’s hostility towards Anglo-Saxon influences, like when the government outlawed the use of “e-mail” and institutionalized “courriel.”
  • Surprisingly, there was hardly any reaction from the mainstream French media. It was “business at usual,” says Fraser. The move only became news after outrage from bloggers.

The Workarounds:

To skirt the new rule, bloggers like Raphael have sarcastically come up with phrases for broadcasters to use:

  1. Follow us on that site where your messages can only be 140 characters or less.
  2. Find us on that social network where you usually have “friends.”

What’s the Context:

  • The CSA says that specifically referencing social-networking sites on air violates a 1992 law banning the promotion of private businesses on radio or television programs. Networks in France already blur corporate logos on television to avoid product placement or even unintentional advertising.
  • The U.S. does not have any similar laws prohibiting the mention of brands or companies. Though television shows do sometimes blur corporate logos, this is mainly to avoid conflict with advertisers and lawsuits from companies trying to maintain control of their trademarks.

The Future Holds:

  • The CSA is yet to outline how the new ruling will be enforced or how violators will be punished.
  • The regulators also need to work out how far down the rabbit hole they want to go. Will broadcasters be unable to ask viewers to check out their iPad or iPhone apps?
  • Kelly says that referencing Facebook or Twitter on air will be alright if they someday become generic terms for social networking. For now, specific sites may only be used if they are “pivotal to the story,” says Kelly (via the Guardian).

Image credit: marcopako/flikr

  • Tracey S.

    I think is definitely a case of the letter of the law bludgeoning the spirit of the law. Unless France really is that xenophobic…

    Facebook and Twitter may be owned by American interests, but they’ve become such a part of life and how we get our news that banning the mention of them would be like banning saying “read more about it on the Internet” or “watch the story on Television” just because those inventions originated in another country and the device you reach them on was also made in another country. Get with the times, people.

  • ets_spoon

    Give France a break. Abstaining from product placement is commendalbe as far as journalistic integrity goes, and just because FBook and Twitter are near-omnipresent doesn’t condone their use – you want viewers to have access to additional content via a social networking site? Then embrace the ‘socialism’ of it all and establish a presence on all relevant social networking sites. There should be an app for that.

  • lenore

    Mind blowing, great reading! The French surprise me from time to time, remember when they banned Muslim women from wearing burquas?

  • Michelle

    No product placement is the law in France, and applying it to American interests is not xenophobic. But the slant of the article and the responses from Americans sure are xenophobic. Why do we hate the French so much?

  • greg

    @michelle: Why do Frenchmen pretend not to know English, but turn suddenly fluent when they are the ones wanting help?

    @tracy: Yes, as a nation they actually are that xenophobic. If you get out into the country, speak to women, young people or those who make their living from tourism a better image emerges. It also helps to not be American, and to at least try to speak some French.

  • Wesley

    Not every country can or should have the same set of laws or value system. Having a world filled with a lot of small countries each inventing their own laws and culture gives us a chance to see how different things work or don’t work and avoids the dreadful monoculture. I kinda wish Canada and the states were more like Europe, broken down into ten different countries, most speaking different languages and having different laws, ways of doing things.. Than I wouldn’t have had to travel so far to find a place different enough from home to keep me interested..

  • Ashley Cakes

    It would be insanely refreshing to NOT have to be bombarded all day long by advertisements and all that corporate bs. I see nothing wrong with it. You know what I’d love to see? A ban on putting commercials at the beginning of every popular YouTube video. When will advertisements and commercials END? Where do we draw the damn line?

  • Tim D.

    @ Ashley

    Commercially supported media will end when you can come up with a viable revenue stream to replace it. Don’t want ads on Youtube? Then you’ll have to pay a hefty subscription fee to use it. It’s not rocket surgery.


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