Popularity of far-right topics on CNews in France sparks electoral concern | France
CNews, the Paris-based news channel whose heated debates over crime and immigration have led critics to call it “French Fox News,” reached record audiences this month, sparking concerns on the left about her interest in law and national order Identity could bolster far-right Marine Le Pen in next year’s presidential election.
The free-to-air news channel, part of the Canal + group owned by French industrialist Vincent Bolloré, has more than doubled its viewers over the past two years with its unique brand of noisy topical debate programs, where many well-known right-wing commentators grapple with political figures from all walks of life and newsletters often run by articles on crime and immigration.
The star of the channel, who appears every night on the talk show Faced with Info, which sometimes peaks at more than a million viewers, it is Eric Zemmour, essayist, polemicist and journalist for the newspaper Le Figaro, whose rowdy speech strewn with historical references saw him qualified as a far-right ideologist the most famous in France.
Zemmour’s criminal convictions for racial and religious hate speech include a 2010 ruling after he said “most drug traffickers are black and Arab” and in 2019, when he compared Muslims in France to “colonizers” “. But that did not dent her prominent multi-channel television career and her top-selling non-fiction books. In court, he maintained that he was not a “provocateur” but a staunch observer of reality who refuses political correctness.
In March, the French media regulator fined CNews € 200,000 for broadcasting Zemmour’s comments about migrant children and the asylum system, which he deemed hateful.
But since then, audience figures have steadily increased for Zemmour and the channel’s other popular weekday shows. This month, daily viewing figures showed that for the first time, on multiple dates, CNews was edging out its main rival, the 24-hour news channel BFMTV, to become the number one 24-hour news channel in France. on several slots during the week.
Observers are divided on whether CNews drives France’s current policy on crime, insecurity, and law and order by putting the topics at the top of its bulletins, setting the agenda for the 2022 presidential race, or if this reflects the long right-wing shift of the French electorate. An Ifop poll last month found that security and counterterrorism issues would play a bigger role in French voters’ choices in next year’s presidential election than unemployment.
Polls currently show that Emmanuel Macron will again face the far right Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election next spring.
Serge Nedjar, chief executive of CNews, said there was no comparison with US Fox News of Rupert Murdoch, who supported Donald Trump: “We are not affiliated with any party, nor with any politician, and we are at light years from that.
CNews simply touched on hot topics, he said, such as crime and insecurity, which were of interest to French viewers but had little airtime on other channels. When the channel rebranded itself four years ago, it deliberately chose fewer news broadcasts, giving more air time to “what the French wanted – explanations, discussions, points of view and more. opinions, ”he added.
“We present all subjects, even those considered to be the most flammable,” Nedjar said. “We talk about insecurity, immigration, identity – these are subjects that have for a very, very long time been classified as subjects of the extreme right. But today, these subjects interest 80% of French people. So we present all topics and we invite everyone [from all political parties] in the studio.
Nedjar said a recent CSA poll for the channel found that 27% of its viewers identified with the left, 9% in the center and 24% with the right, including 9% who identified with the extreme party. right Le Pen National Rally. In total, 40% of viewers did not identify with a party or did not say anything.
“When our competitors say that we are an extreme right channel, this is the number we give to show that we are absolutely not an extreme right channel,” said Nedjar.
The French television regulation system means that all channels, including CNews, must grant the same airtime in the studio to personalities from different political parties during an election period. But these rules of neutrality do not apply to the many experts and commentators around the table.
Pundits appearing on CNews often claim to provide more “outspokenness” than they denigrate as politically correct woolly liberals on other French media.
Julien Odoul, who heads the Le Pen party’s regional election campaign in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and frequently appears on CNews and other channels, said: “CNews is one of the few media outlets to talk about real life… showing what see the French on a daily basis: their difficulties, insecurity, the danger of immigration. CNews talks about sensitive issues – urban riots, attacks on police, and immigration-related attacks. Its merit is to address these questions and to include all political sensitivities in the debate. “
Benoît Hamon, the former socialist presidential candidate, told French radio this week that CNews had “an ultra-conservative, discriminatory, Islamophobic and often racist line,” adding that he would not label all CNews journalists. this way but there was one problem with the “tone” of the string.
Michaël Zoltobroda, media correspondent for Le Parisien, said it was the first time in France that a television channel had prioritized questions and right-wing commentators. “Their editorial line is immigration, violence, drugs and Islam. They supplement their newsletters with this type of problem, then develop it during a debate in the studio. “
Jacques Walter, professor of information sciences at the University of Lorraine, declared that France was in a “historical period where the themes of danger, violence and decline are resuming” and the role of news channels. television is ‘nuanced’ – both reflecting society and helping to ‘normalize a certain type of debate’.