Franco Xenophobia? France Bans Mentioning ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ from TV

written by: Richard Kastelein

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So much for Social TV in France.

Stemming from a decree issued by the French government on March 27, 1992 -  that forbids the promotion of commercial enterprises on news programs, French radio and television news anchors are no longer allowed to say the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” on air, unless the terms are specifically part of a news story.

French news organizations are not allowed to urge their audience to follow them on Twitter or nudge viewers to their Facebook page.  or “check out my Facebook page at facebook.com/emil.protalinski.” Instead, they will have to say “find us on social networking websites” or tell viewers to “check out our webpage at this URL to find links to our pages on social networks.”

The French TV regulatory agency, Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), similar to Ofcom in the UK and FCC in the US, has insisted that the French government is simply upholding its laws.

A CSA representative answered to the public uproar in a widely distributed public statement:

“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. If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it’s opening a Pandora’s Box — other social networks will complain to us saying, ‘why not us?’”

Maybe this is payback for the French - after all -  plenty of Americans politically renamed the perenial French Fries to Freedom Fries, after France expressed strong opposition in the United Nations to the US decision to launch the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some Americans hysterically went as far as to completely boycott French goods and businesses all together and a number of businesses even remove the country’s name from products.

It also reminds me of the contentious issue of non-French signage in Quebec. Was a bit of a problem for many companies, particularly in Montreal's Chinatown, where some of the signs were not in French OR English. The language laws state every sign must be in French with the option of English on it but - if both languages are present - the french writing must be in a noticeably larger font - and if there's no French on a sign you can get in trouble with the language police.Yes they have language police.

Cnet, surprisingly, was behind the CSA's move in France:

Why on Earth should the impoverished French broadcasting companies support these highly munificent American concerns, especially when Americans make such cruel, unusual, and unfounded jokes about everything from male French politicians to French cowardice to the cowardice of male French politicians?

It's certainly not France's fault that the sheep of the world have been duped into following each other and those whom they desperately revere (but will never know) on these virtual networks of alleged friendship.

France has gone out of its way to reveal the perils that are inherent in so many things we take for granted. Why, only today, an intellectual from a French school of political science revealed that the Smurfs are racist and anti-Semitic.

Anyone remember when the US's Reverend Jerry Falwell, a former spokesman for America's Moral Majority,  denounced the BBC TV children's show because it did not provide a good role model for children because Tinky Winky was acting a bit too gay?

Matthew Fraser, an expat in France was scathing on the news:

How can we explain this regulatory lunacy — and the little opposition to it?

The obvious answer is that regulators like to impose rules, if only to make themselves feel important. That reflex is particularly in evidence in a heavily regulated society like France with an omnipresent state. The French, unlike Anglo-Saxons, are generally deferential towards state regulations, though sometimes get so fed up that they take to the streets. From long experience, the French instinctively know how to integrate the inconveniences and irritations of state regulations into their behaviour (including in the violation of the rule). 

But there is another, more plausible, explanation. Facebook and Twitter are, of course, American social networks. In France, they are regarded, at least implicitly, as symbols of Anglo-Saxon global dominance — along with Apple, MTV, McDonald’s, Hollywood, Disneyland, and other cultural juggernauts. That there is a deeply-rooted animosity in the French psyche towards Anglo-Saxon cultural domination cannot be disputed; indeed, it has been documented and analysed for decades. Sometimes this cultural resentment finds expression in French regulations and laws, frequently described, and often denounced, by foreigners as protectionism.

French regulators would not, of course, readily admit that their ban on the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” was motivated by an institutionalised hostility towards Anglo-Saxon domination. They prefer to take refuge in legal explanations with reference, and deference, to French decrees and laws. But the CSA has discretion to interpret the law, and this most recent decree is not only puzzling, but highly suspect. 

About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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