FRANCE Les radios françaises résistent au Covid-19

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ABSTRACT (ENGLISH)

After speaking to the Italian radio editors, we asked French editors to tell us about the impact the pandemic has had on them. 97 radio stations replied, most of them community radio stations (83), giving us an insight into the reality they have faced which differs from that of the commercial radio stations monitored by SIRTI, the union that represents them. The radios have increased information (62%), organised fund raising and played a role in social solidarity. Advertising has halved (-49%) but the radio editors have survived the storm. To date only 1% of the staff has been laid off (34% in Italy), however 38% of the respondents have already applied for the advantages of the ‘partial employment’ scheme. Regarding energy consumption, which is a hot topic in Italy (45% of the budget goes in paying the bills), this is regulated in France and the cost is half (25%). At the end of the survey there are proposals made by the editors on how to come out of the crisis.

ARTICLE (EN FRANÇAIS)
La tour Eiffel, un des symboles de la grandeur française, a été sauvée par les radios. Elle devait être démolie au bout de vingt ans, mais elle était considérée comme une excellente antenne: en 1906, l'armée a commencé à l'utiliser, puis la marine. Aujourd'hui, elle est très fréquentée (elle est utilisée par 32 radios) et les loyers sont élevés, de sorte que pour couvrir la ville avec Dab, les compagnies de télécommunications proposent des sites alternatifs.
La tour Eiffel, un des symboles de la grandeur française, a été sauvée par les radios. Elle devait être démolie au bout de vingt ans, mais elle était considérée comme une excellente antenne: en 1906, l’armée a commencé à l’utiliser, puis la marine. Aujourd’hui, elle est très fréquentée (elle est utilisée par 32 radios) et les loyers sont élevés, de sorte que pour couvrir la ville avec Dab, les compagnies de télécommunications proposent des sites alternatifs.
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Après avoir interrogé les éditeurs italiens, nous avons demandé aux éditeurs français de nous parler de l’impact de la pandémie sur l’activité de leurs stations de radio. Les deux systèmes de media sont différents: en France, ils exploitent environ 900 radios (CSA – Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel), soit 6% de moins que les radios italiennes (957). Mais seulement une sur cinq est commerciale (environ 200, 22%), tandis que les 700 autres sont “associatives”: formule qui prévoit qu’une radio reste autofinancée et bénéficie d’une aide de l’Etat, avec une publicité qui ne peut dépasser 20% des recettes (et certaines stations ne la fournissent tout simplement pas). En Italie, par contre, les ratios sont inversés: 65% des stations (624) vivent grâce aux recettes publicitaires et pour les 333 stations, il n’y a qu’une limitation du nombre de spots publicitaires à diffuser (10% par heure, soit 6 minutes : pas peu).

Plus d’une station de radio sur dix a répondu

Les studios de RCF (Radio Crétienne Francofone), un réseau de 64 stations communautaires qui font appel à environ 3000 bénévoles
Les studios de RCF (Radio Crétienne Francofone), un réseau de 64 stations communautaires qui font appel à environ 3000 bénévoles
Crédits: Vincent Moncorge

L’enquête a été réalisée par 97 diffuseurs, pour la plupart des associations (83), dont 78 radios locales, 5 régionales, une multirégionale et une nationale. Cela nous a permis d’enquêter sur une réalité complémentaire à celle des radios commerciales, déjà contrôlées par Sirti, le syndicat qui les représente (nous en avons parlé ici). La réponse à l’urgence a été similaire à celle des radios italiennes : au-delà des Alpes également, les radios ont réagi en renforçant l’information, en organisant des collectes de fonds et en jouant un rôle de cohésion sociale.

Publicité (et recettes) réduite de moitié? Il est “coupé”, mais seulement en grands groupes

Les studios de Azur FM, la première radio associative alzacienne émettant sur cinq fréquences
Les studios de Azur FM, la première radio associative alzacienne émettant sur cinq fréquences
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La publicité a été réduite de moitié en moyenne (-49%), ce qui reflète la situation des stations de radio multirégionales (-50%), tandis que les spots publicitaires (-72%) et les stations de radio nationales (-90%) ont souffert. Le “préjudice” causé aux associations, qui se concentrent moins sur la publicité, a été limité: pour elles, la baisse a été de 24%. Le renforcement des espaces d’information a été en moyenne de 62% (54% en Italie), mais comme nous l’avons observé en Italie, les radios et réseaux nationaux ont fait beaucoup plus, augmentant les nouvelles de 85 et 105% respectivement, contre 63% pour les associations. Un effort organisationnel autofinancé, non indifférent et soutenu. Les éditeurs, grands et petits, ont résisté à l’impact sans recourir aux licenciements: des petites réalités aux stations de radio nationales, seulement 1,34% du personnel a été licencié (en Italie 34%). Mais 38% des entreprises ont demandé un chômage partiel, en particulier les radios multirégionales (55%). Les associations et les commerciaux sont au même niveau (avec respectivement 40 et 41%), aussi parce qu’ils sont gérés en moyenne par 5 employés et 40 bénévoles. Les grands groupes, au contraire, ont déjà commencé à couper : nous en avons parlé ici.

Juste ce qu’il faut au frais de fonctionnement

Le CSA Conseil Supérieur de l'Audivisuel, est l'autorité publique qui réglemente également la planification des fréquences
Le CSA Conseil Supérieur de l’Audivisuel, est l’autorité publique qui réglemente également la planification des fréquences
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En France, l’éther est planifié et l’énergie n’est pas gaspillée: les factures d’électricité n’absorbent qu’un quart du budget annuel d’un radiodiffuseur, alors qu’en Italie, elles sont presque deux fois plus élevées (45 %). Seul un faible pourcentage de répondants (10%) est favorable à la réduction de la puissance des systèmes, mais ils souhaiteraient l’appliquer à tous les émetteurs, même ceux de moins de 100W. Concernant la durée de la réduction, 54% la limiteraient à trois mois, tandis que 27% souhaiteraient la maintenir pour toujours.

De nombreuses idées pour redémarrer

Les droits d'auteur sont gérés par deux sociétés: la Sacem est responsable des droits des auteurs, compositeurs et producteurs de musique; la Spre celle des artistes interprètes et producteurs de musique
Les droits d’auteur sont gérés par deux sociétés: la Sacem est responsable des droits des auteurs, compositeurs et producteurs de musique; la Spre celle des artistes interprètes et producteurs de musique
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Nous avons regroupé les suggestions des éditeurs par thèmes, en essayant de les transformer en propositions dont les associations devront être les porte-parole. Deux radios sur trois (66%) demandent une prime et un fonds de soutien, mais sur le reste des mesures, il y a une nette distinction entre les radios commerciales et associatives. Les premiers demandent une aide financière, une réduction des impôts (ou leur suppression pour 2020 et 2021) et des charges salariales. Il y a ceux qui pointent du doigt les droits d’auteur (gérés par la Sacem et la Spre) et ceux qui suggèrent au gouvernement de prévoir un crédit d’impôt pour les annonceurs, pour relancer la publicité (une mesure également envisagée en Italie). Les radio associatives, quant à elles, réclament des subventions exceptionnelles, une augmentation du FSER (Fonds de soutien à l’expression radiophonique locale) et des formes de soutien indirect, comme la diffusion de messages d’intérêt général (payés par le gouvernement) afin de faire rentrer de l’argent frais dans les caisses désormais vides. Mais aussi des solutions rapides, telles que la réduction de la TVA. En bref, le monde entier est un pays, même le fait que (comme cela s’est produit dans le cadre d’une enquête italienne similaire), un seul éditeur s’est déclaré satisfait de ce que le gouvernement a fait jusqu’à présent pour la radio. 

FRANCE: Large networks cut costs and staff

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In order to compensate for lower advertising revenues caused by the pandemic, the large networks are making savings like this: Altice has closed down the TV channel RMC Sport and laid off a third of its personnel, RTL has dismissed well known radio hosts and television presenters and NRJ has sold a stake to increase liquidity

The TV channel RMC Sport News, at crisis level due to cancellations of sports events, was shut down on June 2nd, 2020
The TV channel RMC Sport News, at crisis level due to cancellations of sports events, was shut down on June 2nd, 2020
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In June 2020 the French subsidiary of the Altice group (a multinational with headquarters in Holland), presented a plan to the unions ‘in order to save the media group’. This involved all the divisions in the NextRadioTV group, including channels BFM TV and RMC. The goal is to streamline both organisation and programming by axing between 330 and 380 full-time staffers in addition to 200 freelancers. According to the union representing the employees at Altice CGT (Confederation generale du travail) ‘This drastic cut in personnel is incomprehensible for a profitable group in constant growth, which had a turnover of € 120 million in 2019, a 300% increase in 5 years’.

Unions jump into action

This press release, giving information on the progress of their negotiations, appeared on June 29th, 2020, on the Facebook page of the union representing Altice staff
This press release, giving information on the progress of their negotiations, appeared on June 29th, 2020, on the Facebook page of the union representing Altice staff
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Following a number of strikes and union action, the company softened its stance on June 29th, 2020. It undertook to ‘offer voluntary redundancies to a maximum of 330 staffers and not proceed with layoffs until November 31st, 2021’. It will also try ‘to find alternative employment for staffers who cannot be placed in other positions inside the organisation and find a solution for freelancers’.

Capital gain of € 300 million in 2018

On June 8th, 2020, Capital printed this article which explains the real estate operation that led to a sizeable capital gain on the sale of the premises of some of the group's headquarters
On June 8th, 2020, Capital printed this article which explains the real estate operation that led to a sizeable capital gain on the sale of the premises of some of the group’s headquarters
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Up to a short time ago the group was flourishing to the point that the owner, Patrick Drahi, and Alan Weill, the Chief Executive Officer of NextRadioTV, made €300 million gross from the capital gain on the sale of some buildings. These four towers, located in the 15th arrondissement in Paris, are the headquarters of SFR (Societe francaise du radiotelephone, the second largest mobile communications company), BFM TV and the daily newspaper Liberation. The 85,800 square metres of floorspace accommodates 7,000 employees. Apparently in 2018 Drahi and Weill bought the buildings in their own names to then resell them to the group at a higher price.

RTL dismiss well known radio hosts and television presenters

The RTL Group with headquarters in Luxembourg is one of the leading companies in the field of broadcasting and digital media with interests in 68 television stations, 8 streaming platforms, 30 radio stations and a production company in many countries worldwide
The RTL Group with headquarters in Luxembourg is one of the leading companies in the field of broadcasting and digital media with interests in 68 television stations, 8 streaming platforms, 30 radio stations and a production company in many countries worldwide
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The RTL group’s accounts for the first quarter this year closed with a fall of 3.14%. Two months later, the French headquarters announced the dismissals of a number of well known television presenters and radio hosts, the departure of the head of the political service and a cut in the budget of the correspondent in the United States. Details can be found on Jean Marc Morandini’s website

NRJ sells a stake to increase liquidity

The NRJ Group has four national radio stations (NRJ, Cherie FM, Nostalgie and Rire & Chansons), two free national TV channels (NRJ 12 and Cherie 25), a pay TV channel (NRJ HITS) and, with their subsidiary Towercast, is the second largest operator of infrastructure and transmission towers
The NRJ Group has four national radio stations (NRJ, Cherie FM, Nostalgie and Rire & Chansons), two free national TV channels (NRJ 12 and Cherie 25), a pay TV channel (NRJ HITS) and, with their subsidiary Towercast, is the second largest operator of infrastructure and transmission towers
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Despite its leading position in the French market, NRJ is also feeling the pinch. On June 24th, 2020, NRJ sold a 5% stake in Euro-Information Telecom for €50 million. The company stated that the sale proceedswill be used for the needs of the group’s business‘. See details here

FRANCE: Independent radio stations in alarm

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SIRTI, the union of independent radio stations, brings together 172 French independent, local, regional, thematic and generalist radio channels.
SIRTI, the union of independent radio stations, brings together 172 French independent, local, regional, thematic and generalist radio channels.
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Radio stations in France have also been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19 according to SIRTI, the union of independent radio stations, that has been monitoring the situation by carrying out monthly surveys. Up to April 2020 75% of the radio stations had not applied for the advantages of the ‘partial employment’ scheme (teleworking is not viable for 50% of the staff) because of the bureaucratic procedures being too complicated according to 39% of the respondents. No one had been dismissed (the 112 members in the survey answered) but if the crisis was to last longer, 55% planned to apply for aid from the solidarity fund that has been set up for businesses. More than half of the respondents did not have the resources to face further financial difficulty. After recording a drop of 56% in advertising in March (-32% for the national radio stations) a collapse was foreseen in April: -78% (-75% for national broadcasters).

The situation worsens

The radio stations in SIRTI have 9 million listeners on an average day, employ 33% of people working in the sector and have 25% of total radio advertising
The radio stations in SIRTI have 9 million listeners on an average day, employ 33% of people working in the sector and have 25% of total radio advertising
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In the second survey carried out in May 2020, 72% were not confident of resuming normal business quickly, and 38% believed that the crisis could jeopardise businesses in the short term. A return to normality, according to 95% of the respondents, would not happen before the beginning of the academic year, and for 21% not before the beginning of 2021. The reason for this was because advertisers, having been hit hard during the crisis, either cancelled their advertising campaigns or negotiated lower prices. More than one out of two radio stations have had to apply for bank loans and one in three has applied for aid from the solidarity funds or other means of support.

Cutting personnel is inevitable

During the pandemic radio stations increased the amount of information given out, supported French artists, contributed to social cohesion and entertained those at home in lockdown. They promoted solidarity and raised funds. They also broadcast free commercial spots giving useful information to the public for a value of €6.5 million
During the pandemic radio stations increased the amount of information given out, supported French artists, contributed to social cohesion and entertained those at home in lockdown. They promoted solidarity and raised funds. They also broadcast free commercial spots giving useful information to the public for a value of €6.5 million
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In order to curb the number of dismissals, radio stations are considering implementing the partial employment scheme to balance their books and 32% predict extending this policy to the end of August 2020. 36% have not renewed or have terminated fixed-term contracts and have terminated employment for those employees working probationary periods. However these measures are not sufficient and if financial aid is not available by the end of the year, each radio station will most probably have to cut between one to three jobs. Due to the crisis there will be a reduction in events and concerts. 41% of radio stations predict reducing the number of events they organise at local levels.

Requests to the government

The pandemic has brought broadcasters to their knees. 38% consider that their businesses will be in danger shortly, 95% believe that a return to normality will not be seen before September 2020 and 75% will have to reduce personnel
The pandemic has brought broadcasters to their knees. 38% consider that their businesses will be in danger shortly, 95% believe that a return to normality will not be seen before September 2020 and 75% will have to reduce personnel
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In June 2020 SIRTI estimated that three out of four radio stations will have to cut jobs in the next few weeks. Annual revenues from advertising could be down by at least 25% (€35 million) according to a more optimistic prognosis but could drop by €45 million if investments in advertising does not restart at the beginning of the academic year. The union is asking for a waiver of the last three months payment of both the employee’s and employer’s social security contributions. This is believed to amount to €10 million which could compensate for about a third of lost revenues.

Media groups making moves

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Even in the midst of a global crisis, deals continue to happen. French mass media conglomerate, Vivendi, recently acquired 10% of Lagardère; a move that helped to strengthen the French position in the market. Following Vivendi, Groups Arnault also enters into Lagardere.
In Italy, the Agnelli family holdings company sealed the deal on the acquisition of Gedi, endowing them with three radio networks.

Arnauld Lagardère, CEO, article from Le monde, France
The French daily newspaper, Le Monde, reports tension between the Amber Fund and the management of Groupe Lagadere
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After acquiring the initial 10% in Lagardère, in May 2020 Vivendi increased its shareholder equity to 16.4%. The move strengthens the position of Arnauld Lagadère, in control of the group, that had just foiled the attack of the Amber fund. The firm, and Lagardère’s biggest stakeholder, had accused him of bad management and wanted to change directors.

corriere della sera, article about group anfault
Three weeks later Groupe Arnault, the holding company of Bernard Arnault (the majority shareholder of the Following the sudden death of the founder Jean-Luc in 2003, the multimedia empire Largardere was significantly downsized, as this article in the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, explains very well
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After the sudden death of Lagadère’s founder, Jean-Luc, in 2003, the multimedia empire has since shrunk. The following quote from Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera in the article ‘Francia, Sarkozy e Bolloré salvano (per ora) l’erede del regno Lagardère’ sums up the move well:
‘This acquisition is a long-term financial investment reflecting Vivendi’s confidence in the future prospects of the French group which enjoys international leadership positions in its businesses and which, like many others, is experiencing difficult times at the moment.’

Article about Vivendi acquiring 10% of Lagardère
The Vivendi press release explains the motivations for the purchase 
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To give some context to Vivendi’s owner, Vincent Bolloré is an accomplished leader. In December, 2016, he attempted to buy out the Italian Mediaset channel (publishing, three TV networks, pay TV and five radio stations), gaining up to 25.75% of the share capital and 26.77% of the voting rights.    

About Vivendi, being an integrated content, media and communications group
Vivendi, an integrated content, media and communication group, has interests in discography (Universal Music Group), pay TV (Canal+), publishing (Editis) and games (Gameloft)
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Change of ownership for Italian radio networks

Exor group purchasing Gedi
Exor, the holding company of the Agnelli family, not only controls the group FCA but now it also controls the Gruppo Editoriale Gedi, that was formed by a merger of the editorial groups of the daily newspapers La Stampa and La Repubblica
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With the purchase of Gedi by the Exor group, three radio stations, (m2o, Radio Capital and Radio Deejay) will be passed onto the Agnelli family holdings company. 
Based in the Netherlands, Exor has a capital worth € 24 billion. In addition to owning Ferrari, they are also the largest shareholder of the FCA-Fiat Chrysler Group

Covid-19 and Radio: Situation in France, Spain and Italy

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Wireless, a programme produced by John Walsh on Flirt FM in Galway, 101.3 FM, is back with a special edition on the crisis, that radio is facing because of the pandemic. They are presenting an overview of how European broadcasters in France, Spain and Italy are dealing with the impact that the crisis is having on radio stations. Their previous transmission covered the situation in Ireland which we spoke about in one of our recent articles.

Click here to listen to the Wireless podcast.

Wireless, programme on Flirt FM in Galway, their blog, where one can listen to their podcast
Wireless Flirt, Radio about Radio from Ireland
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