The 30x30 cm book cover is a tribute to the vinyl record covers that marked the era of free radio
The 30×30 cm book cover is a tribute to the vinyl record covers that marked the era of free radio
Source: photo courtesy of the author, Yvon Lechevestrier

Forty years ago, the French state broke the monopoly in the FM band, authorising the emergence of private associative broadcasters. At that time, the FM band was populated by a few channels: the public ones of Radio France and a few private ones, such as Europe 1 and RTL. From 9 November 1981, the phenomenon exploded, immediately making radio a popular medium: within a year, there were two thousand free radio stations. The next step came in 1984 when advertising was authorised, and radio stations could choose between two organisational formulas: remaining an associative broadcaster, relying on state subsidies, or standing on their own two feet, becoming a commercial station living off the revenue from commercials.

The epic told in a book

Summer 1981: at the Hédé festival Pierre Giboire, founder of Fréquence Ille, interviews Edmond Hervé, mayor of Rennes
Summer 1981: at the Hédé festival Pierre Giboire, founder of Fréquence Ille, interviews Edmond Hervé, mayor of Rennes. The microphone and vintage cassette recorder can be seen in the foreground
Source: photo courtesy of the author, Yvon Lechevestrier

In Rennes, there were two pioneers: Gaby Aubert, a butcher’s boy turned bistro owner, who launched Radio Rennes, which is still in operation today, and Pierre Giboire, a 23-year-old student who created Fréquence Ille on 14 July 1981: it was an immediate success, quickly becoming one of the radio stations that symbolised the liberalisation of the airwaves. Not much time passed and in the Breton capital, other stations followed the path opened by the pioneers: Rennes FM, Radio Congas, and Radio Vilaine. They are mainly music stations, each distinguished by its own style. It is of this creative period that ‘Il est libre Max‘ (in homage to the name of the first song broadcast by Fréquence Ille), a book written by Yvon Lechevestrier, a former journalist for the French daily Ouest-France, is about. With testimonies and period illustrations, it brings the fabulous 1980s back to life.

Standardisation arrives in the 1990s

The book’s layout is elegant: on each double page the space on the left is reserved for photos from different periods of time
Source: photo courtesy of the author, Yvon Lechevestrier

The golden age of local radio continued until the end of the decade, interspersed with episodes from the city’s history. But after the initial enthusiasm, business began to take hold: the most important commercial radio stations, such as NRJ, grew and became national networks. In the 1990s, with the first economic difficulties, most of the pioneers threw in the towel and many stations were absorbed by the networks. The FM band is still very musical, but also, often, very commercial.

Forty years later, the radio scene is still vibrant: at the end of 2020, according to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), there were 1,021 private operators and more than 6,000 frequencies. The book, published by AR Editions Collection, costs EUR 29 and can be ordered from or directly from the author at


The article in the newspaper Le Figaro analyses the situation and the workers’ counterproposals on the measure, which is expected to be included in the package of anti-inflationary measures to be presented to the council of ministers on 6 July 2022

The abolition of the radio and television licence fee does not please the workers of the public broadcasters, who went on strike on 26 June. A populist measure designed to ease the burden of inflation on French households, the abolition of the licence fee was one of President Emmanuel Macron’s battle horses in his campaign for the 2022 legislative elections. But workers fear that the more than three billion euro hole that will be created will take away the independence of public broadcasters, and argue that compensatory funds cannot be decided by the government, nor face the pitfalls of the annual finance law. In France, the fee amounts to 138 euros per year (88 for residents abroad) and is only payable by households that own a TV set: those who watch programmes from smartphones, PCs, TVs and tablets pay nothing. The radio networks (France Inter, France Culture, France Musique, France Bleu, FIP), the television stations and France Media Monde (France 24, RFI and MCD) are affected.


Changes are in the offing for the radio stations of the Lagardère group: a reorganisation has been announced that will reshape the ownership and governance of Europe 1, RFM and Virgin Radio

The French group Vivendi takes another step towards control of the Lagardère group. At the end of the takeover bid (which was reopened from 29 May to 7 June 2022), Vincent Bolloré’s group reached 57.35% of the capital. The decision of the Autorité de la Concurrence is now awaited, which will have to pronounce on the 47.33% of voting rights that Vivendi acquired with the takeover bid (it currently holds 22.45%). In the meantime, the group has announced its intention to restructure the ownership and governance of the radio pole, which includes the three national networks Europe 1, RFM and Virgin Radio. The operation will have to be financially neutral, and (as ‘Les Echos’ writes) the activities could be brought together in a limited partnership in which the limited partners would be companies of the Lagardère group and the general partner Arnaud Lagardère.


Vincent Bolloré, patron of the Vivendi group, should retire in February 2022: it is assumed that accelerating the Opa on Lagardère tries to fix the company before leaving the helm to his children
Vincent Bolloré, patron of the Vivendi group, should retire in February 2022: it is assumed that accelerating the Opa on Lagardère tries to fix the company before leaving the helm to his children

The conquest of the French media group by the Breton financier Vincent Bolloré is approaching its final stages. The Opa (the takeover bid aimed at shareholders to invite them to sell their shares to the company that would like to take control), initially scheduled for December 15, 2022, has been brought forward to February 2022. Vivendi will take control of Radio Europe 1, the RMF and Virgin Radio networks and the publishing houses Hachette and Editis. The Antitrust Authority and the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) have yet to pronounce on the acquisition. They could impose the sale of certain assets in the book sector, particularly in France, because with the acquisition of the two big names in publishing and book distribution in France, Vivendi would have a dominant position. This and other aspects are discussed in the Italian monthly Prima Comunicazione, specialized in the world of publishing.


Among the Virgin Radio sites affected by the closure is Angers, the capital of Maine and Loire

The Lagardère group has unveiled a plan to redeploy 30 journalists and 4 presenters involved in closing 26 Virgin Radio and four RFM locations. Ownership attributes the need for the cuts to the music broadcasters’ declining audience due to competition from streaming platforms. But the CFDT union disputes this, attributing the crisis to the group’s management problems, as the other major generalist radio stations have not lost listeners. On the contrary, the stations that will be closed have sent €3.6 million in dividends to the Lagardère group in 2020.

We have already discussed the crisis at the Lagardère Group here and here.

Desertification risk

Closing the network’s regional offices also reduces news coverage in certain territories, particularly rural areas, which are already under stress due to the crisis: since 2009, the number of journalists has fallen by 10%

In the communiqué issued by the union, the workers are acknowledged for their dedication to working as presenters in the morning, especially in “isolated editorial offices“, with net salaries of less than 1,900 euros per month. And fearing the danger of information desertification in certain areas, particularly rural ones, the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel) is asked to monitor the merger in progress within the group and compliance with agreements. Indeed, operators are obliged to open local offices in order to broadcast local advertising. ”Certainly, shareholders dream of radio stations without journalists or presenters, but the media will die that way.”


The article of CB News enters in the details of the operation promoted by Vincent Bolloré, patron of the Vivendi group: the group would rise to 45% of the capital and 36% of the voting rights and would be obliged to the Opa

A few months after entering the capital of the Lagardère group, Vivendi aims to take control: in recent days it has announced its intention to acquire the package of 18% owned by the Amber Capital fund and that it will then present the Opa. Vivendi, which already has 27% of Lagardère’s shares in its portfolio, has set December 15, 2022 as the time horizon, offering 24.1 euros per share, thus recognizing a premium of about 20% compared to the quotations. However, the transaction must obtain the green light from the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel), the Autorité des Marchés Financiers and the European Commission. In order to finance the acquisition, Vivendi’s owner Vincent Bolloré sold shares in Universal Music (retaining a sufficient 10% to maintain control), before listing the music giant on the Amsterdam stock exchange. The listing was a success, because compared to the placement fee set at 18.5 euros per share, the shares rose to 26.45 euros (+35%), giving the group a value of around 45.5 billion euros compared to 33 at the placement.

FRANCE: Public radio blackout on the east coast of Corsica

A fire that devastated French repeaters on Italian territory has made it impossible to listen to various national and local programmes on the island’s east coast since 27 June 2021

Public radio blackout on the east coast of Corsica
The fire broke out on the night of Saturday 27 June, shortly after 11 pm. The cause is unknown, but a short circuit has been suggested.

Elba is a strategic location for illuminating the east coast of Corsica with radio signals. Mount Capanne is opposite Bastia and is about fifty kilometres as the crow flies from the Corsican coast, so much so that French public radio and television, in agreement with Italy, has repeaters on the summit since 1990.

Two pictures on the Radio France website show that the damage involved the mast at the station causing extensive damage.

The location is managed by the TDF group (a company set up in 1975 by the public broadcaster to manage the technical infrastructure), which broadcasts four radio channels from the site, including national and regional ones: France Bleu RCFM (an acronym for Radio Corse Fréquence Mora, on 88.2 MHz), France Culture (92.3); France Inter (96.8) and France Musique (99.8).

Forty years ago, Radio Corse Internationale was silenced

Forty years ago, Radio Corse Internationale was silenced
On the portal’s website, Italradio dedicates an in-depth study to the 1980 bombing of the Monte Capanne posts

Mount Capanne was also at the centre of an obscure episode, as the Italradio website writes: the attack on several repeaters on 14 August 1980, two weeks after the Bologna station massacre. A book published in France in 2013 (Histoire politique des services secrets français, Editions La Découverte) relates the four explosions to similar actions carried out by the French secret services. Among the radio stations involved was Radio Corse Internationale, a station that supported Corsican independence. The French government tried to use diplomatic means to stop the station but was met with disinterest from the Italian authorities. The station stopped broadcasting in 1981.

FRANCE: Radio blows out one hundred candles

31 May sees the start of the Festival de la Radio, a week celebrating radio with meetings, seminars, open houses, special programmes
31 May sees the start of the Festival de la Radio, a week celebrating radio with meetings, seminars, open houses, special programmes

To celebrate the centenary of the first radio broadcast and the 40th anniversary of the liberalisation of the airwaves, the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) has organised a festival to be held between 31 May and 6 June, 2021. Launched by the authority that regulates the French media system, the initiative will involve public and private broadcasters. 2021 marks the centenary of the first broadcast from the Tour Eiffel (24 December 1921) and 40 years since the liberalisation of the FM band (9 November 1981). But innovation will also be celebrated, as the first national multiplex in the digital band (DAB+) will be launched this year. History and archives, special programmes, media education seminars, lectures, open studios: many events will be organised during the week. Information is available here.

FRANCE: The sale of M6 and RTL triggers a media earthquake

Vincent Bolloré is the majority shareholder of the Vivendi group, which, in addition to TF1 (France’s most watched TV channel), owns 28.8% of Mediaset in Italy

The decision by the German group Bertelsmann to sell two leading broadcasters in terms of ratings (TV M6 and radio RTL are both in second place) has opened up competition between major French patrons. Four bids have already been submitted and the competition is expected to be fierce. There are also political interests: in 2022 there will be presidential elections, and the transfer of the two stations could reshape the media landscape. Especially if Vincent Bolloré, who has changed the political line of CNews (all news network) and shifted it to extreme right-wing positions, wins the elections. Details on the protagonists and the political balances at stake in the article of the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della sera’.

FRANCE: Lagardère towards the ”break-up”?

Lagardère towards the ''break-up''?
Libération has dedicated an investigation to the subject (the article is behind a paywall, the newspaper can be read online for a month for just 1 EUR).

The grip is tightening on the Lagardère Group, propped up months ago (read more about it here) by injections of liquidity by Vincent Bolloré (owner of Vivendi, a multimedia group created around Canal+) and Bernard Arnault (owner of LVMH, an international fashion group). Bolloré would have set his eyes on Europe 1, a generalist radio station very much listened to in France, and would like to absorb it and, in view of the next elections, align it with the positions of Marine Le Pen. Arnault, instead, first hour supporter of President Emmanuel Macron, would be interested in the Journal du dimanche and Paris Match. So in the looming tug-of-war, the money may not be enough to get the radio station into Vivendi’s orbit. An extensive summary can be read on the webmagazine Succede Oggi (in Italian, consultation is free). Prima Comunicazione, on the other hand, also talks about Bolloré’s interest in the French group M6, which the German group Bertelsmann is interested in selling.

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