CNews, the news network created by billionaire Vincent Bollore, attracted audiences in May by giving a new megaphone to right-wing views on crime, immigration, climate and Covid.
PARIS - This is the news network that claims to tell viewers what the 'awake' mainstream media will not do. He says he is fighting for freedom of 'expression in danger, even though he was fined by the government broadcasting regulator for inciting racial hatred.
C is CNews - which in four short years became France's No.1 news network for the first time in May by giving a megaphone to far-right politicians, opponents of the fight against the climate change and a leading proponent of the discredited idea of using the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for Covid-19.
The model is Fox News - including talking heads and inflammatory cultural topics - and it worked. Owned by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, former presidentnt from media group Vivendi, CNews is increasingly helping to shape the national debate, particularly on hot issues like crime, immigration and the place of Islam in France that are expected to influence the election. next year's presidential election.
The network 's extraordinary influence and controversial role in France were made even clearer this week, when its host most popular was kicked off the airwaves because he is seen as a likely candidate for president - and one with a real chance of turning the tide.
In a country where media trust is very low , CNews has emerged at a time of particular discontent - in the aftermath of the 2018 yellow vests protests, which, like the election of Donald J. Trump in the United States, aroused a lot of introspection among newspapersstes. Understood by traditional media outlets, the protests reinforced the impression of a media disconnected from central Paris and ushered in a new era of sometimes violent confrontation between journalists and people in the streets where they worked. Image A demonstration of the Yellow Vests in 2018 in Caen. The rapid and unforeseen growth of the movement prompted French journalists to question themselves. Credit ... Charly Triballeau / Agence France-Presse - Images
"People had some fed up with political correctness, and, in France, for 30 years, 40 years, information was in the hands of rs newspapers, television and dailies which saidare all the same, "said Serge Nedjar, CNews boss, explaining how his channel has positioned itself in a country with four 24-hour news channels.
Unlike its competitors, CNews focused on" analysis and debate "on topics that Nedjar said were most important to the French but had been ignored or insufficiently covered by the media: "Crime, insecurity, immigration".
He added: "We created this network thinking that we are talking about everything, including explosive topics.
Mr. Nedjar said he was unfamiliar with Fox News when CNews was formed and dismissed the comparisons. "There is the word 'news ', and so much the better if it works like Fox News," he said, referring to the name of his network. "Fox News works great there, I hear.
But critics say the problem is not with CNews' choice of topics, but how it treats them. They say the emphasis on opinion, often supported by few reports or fact-checking, propagates popular prejudices and deepens dividing lines in a polarized society.
"This is a way to take the worst of it all out. public opinion, what we hear at the neighborhood bar, that we can no longer say anything, that we do not have the right to talk about it ", declared Alexis Levrier, media historian at the University of Reims.
During the start of the school year after the summer holidays summer , CNews found a familiar formula to stir up
On CNews, a hostess and her guests, including a spokesperson of the far-right National Rally, have repeatedly predicted the failure of the plan. the residents were people of "non-European" origin.
Pascal Praud, one of the best hosts at CNews, teased Mr. Macron for sprinkling his speech in Marseille with 10-cent words like“ thaumaturge ”and“ palimpseste ”.
Mr. Nedjar said CNews favors personalities who "are normal people " and "not pretentious ".
The highest personality of the network, Eric Zemmour, has become a national figure, and is the subject of two rulings by the government regulator. He doesn't hesitate to push the white nationalist conspiracy theory of the supposed large replacement of the population established by new arrivals from Africa. He inspired the murders of white supremacists from Texas to New Zealand and has been avoided even by far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally.
"You have a population that is French, white, Christian, of culture Greco-Roman ”which is replaced by a“ population which is Maghrebian, African and predominantly Muslim, ”M. Zemmour said two weeks ago .
In two decisions on past comments from Mr. Zemmour, the broadcast regulator put CNews in default, and in March he fined him 200,000 euros, or about $ 236,000, for speech inciting racial hatred - the first time that an information network has faced such a sanction. Since June, the regulator - who is responsible for ensuring political balance in broadcasting - has also twice warned CNews for failing to provide
Mr. Nedjar said last week that Mr. Zemmour was exercising his freedom of expression and the network was challenging the decisions. But it is Mr. Zemmour 's flirtation with the candidacy to the presidency which forced the network to act on Monday. After the regulator ordered a limitation of Mr. Zemmour 's broadcasting time because he could be considered an aOn the political side, CNews has announced that it will stop appearing in its regular schedule. Image Posters in Paris promoting Eric Zemmour, flagship personality of the network, as possible president. Credit ... Ludovic Marin / Agence France-Presse - Images
The origins of CNews began in 2015, when Mr. Bollore took control of the broadcasting network Canal Plus, including its troubled left-wing news channel, i-Tele. Two years later, the chain was reborn under the name CNews.
In 2018, the Yellow Vests movement - led by French people on the geographic and economic periphery - caught up with the media and the estapolitical blishment by surprise. Journalists have become adversaries and have become targets of protesters, said Vincent Giret, who oversees news at Radio France, the public broadcaster.
"He There is a part of France today that does not feel represented by listening or watching the media, ”said Mr. Giret.
In At a recent press conference, Mr. Giret said Radio France would emphasize evidence-based journalism, neutrality and reporting, so as not to undermine the "democratic debate ". present ourselves as the anti-CNews, "he said.
But CNews' success, according to media experts, has swayed its competitors, including Radio France, which has just launched a opinion segment on its France Inter sta
" Our direct competitors, who have passed their time to say they wouldn't do CNews, all they do is CNews "Mr. Nedjar said.
Over the summer, CNews 'power seemed to grow when its billionaire owner, Mr. Bollore, took control of a radio station, Europe 1. A few CNews hosts are now duplicating Europe 1.
Veteran journalist Patrick Cohen was one of many to leave Europe 1, fearing it could turn into a radio version of CNews .
"The raison d'être of these chains is not to seek the truth, but to seek controversy " said M . Cohen. "Their role is to create
But Mr. Cohen said he believed that the 'influenceCNews 'nce on politics and next year ' s election would be limited. Even though it was the top ranked op news channel in May, it had lower audience share than traditional networks, he said. Image The headquarters of the Group Canal + in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, where the CNews studios are located. Credit. .. Ludovic Marin / AFP via Images
Others say that , like Fox News two decades earlier, CNews filled a political vacuum in the media landscape and pushed French conservatives further to the right.
"C ' is in part due to the Fox News effect, and it is completely changing theFrench political landscape ”, explains Julia Cage, economist at Sciences Po specializing in the media.
At the start of Mr. Macron's five-year term, his collaborators monitored BFM, a CNN-style news channel that slipped behind CNews in audiences for the first time in May, said Greyhound, the media historian. Now, he said, they were glued to CNews. But BFM remains at the top of the general classification all season.
Two years ago, some politicians - on the left, like the Greens, or in the centrist party by Mr. Macron - vowed never to appear on CNews. Since then, many have turned to his studios.
While cautious about asserting the power of his network, Mr. Nedjar said on burning questions, "CNews has slightly, modestly, managed to move the lines ". He said he thought the network was making itSome government officials nervous because they thought it might help propel a candidate like Ms. Le Pen to power.
"I think they got it. worried about the influence of CNews, which I'm telling you is not huge, "Nedjar said. " But they are worried about the influence of CNews a few months before the election . "
Leontine Gallois contributed to the report.