French broadcasters barred from saying "Facebook" or "Twitter" on air

Sunday, June 5, 2011

French "Dislike" button

The French institution of regulation of broadcasting media has recently prohibited the use of the words "Facebook" and "Twitter" on television or radio broadcasts; except where these social networks are a central part of a news report.

The regulation, issued by the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), cites a 1992 statute governing the relationship between journalists and advertising, sponsorship, and "teleshopping". Mentioning the words "Facebook" or "Twitter" on air, in the eyes of the CSA, constitutes "clandestine advertising". CSA spokesperson Christine Kelly explained her organization's desire to set a level playing field when it comes to social networking: "Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition," she said. "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?'"

Broadcasters now may not tell their listeners to "find us on Facebook", but rather "find us on social networks". However, they would still be allowed to name the social networking sites when either is involved in a news story.

Business Insider contributor Matthew Fraser sees this action as a form of animosity towards US culture: "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."

CNET's Chris Matyszczyk, on the other hand, suspects that Frenchmen will hardly miss the explicit references to social networks tacked onto the end of broadcasts. "I am confident that not one single French citizen will miss the now standard cliche at the end of each broadcast entreating every viewer to please keep in contact with the news station on one or other of the American social networks."