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French government bans journalists from saying “Facebook” and “Twitter” on-air

June 7, 2011

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In France, radio and television news anchors are now prohibited from saying the words “Facebook” and “Twitter” on air, unless the terms are specifically part of a news story. The new stipulation comes from a 1992 governmental measure which forbids the promotion of commercial enterprises on news programs.

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French news organizations now cannot suggest their audience “follow them on Twitter” or to go to their “Facebook page.”

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 Superior Audiovisual Council, or CSA says the French government is simply upholding its laws.

“Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition?” a CSA spokesperson said in a statement. “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?’

“We are not in the United States where you buy frequencies to get a TV channel and then you do pretty much whatever you want on your channel,” said Christine Kelly, a member of the council.

In France you don’t buy the frequency but get one for free and in exchange “there are rules you must respect,” Kelly said.

British-Canadian journalist Mathew Fraser wrote in a piece that the ban reflected France’s obsession with “legalistic codes and decrees.” He also called it a view on the “Kafkaesque nightmare” that is French bureaucracy.

Bloggers in France also showed their disgust with the ban, on Monday, French blog La Social Newsroom railed against the CSA for “giving Americans yet another reason to laugh at France.”

Much of the news commentary on the ban seemingly points to a possible bit of French wounded nationalistic pride, since both Facebook and Twitter are American companies. Both mega sites dwarf their French competitors in terms of scope and profitability.

 

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