The financial aid to the press in France goes back to the French Revolution in 1769, with the establishment of privileged postal rates. Over the years, they have evolved with the aim of favouring a certain pluralism in the media landscape, offering opportunities for new publications and more recently, for the diversification of multimedia production by press companies.
The Brachard report, prior to the unanimous adoption in 1935 of the Branchard law on the status of the professional journalist, highlights that the French Government had, on more than one occasion, adopted exceptional measures in favour of industry, which constitute genuine privileges, and it is fair that we listen to the demands that their professional associations formulated unanimously.
The French Ministry of Culture traditionally distinguishes between direct grants (to dissemination and pluralism) and indirect aid (fiscal and social).
The strategic Fund for the development of the press and the Aid to the Diffusion are the direct aids of the State to the press. The press publishers requesting this financial aid are obliged to sign and respect a framework agreement.
Articles from 18 to 27 of the electronic mail and communication code establish that the press benefits from preferential postal rates, in its routeing and distribution by Post. The tariff scale takes into account the weight of the publications, the urgency and the degree of preparation of the shipments.
A reduction is applied to newspapers and weeklies of a political nature and general information.
National newspapers with scarce publicity resources and local newspapers also with scarce publicity, coming from small advertisers, also benefit from a further reduction. On July 23rd, 2008, the Postal Service, the government and the editors signed an agreement protocol about distribution of the press by post.
The decree of March 26th, 1987 provides for a reduction of 20% applied to the contribution rates "of agencies or press companies that employ professional or similar journalists". The status of street press vendors also benefit from a scheme designed to promote this form of distribution, which is highly developed in the USA. and in the countries of Northern Europe.
1,200 MILLION EUROS IN GRANTS
In 1935, coinciding with the Blanchard Law which instituted the statute of professional journalist, members of parliament voted deductions for expenses derived from journalists' activity, which accounted for 30% of gross income, until the government of Alain Juppé when it was abolished in 1996. Two years later, with Lionel Jospin in government, a new system was adopted that allowed journalists deductions from their real income (referenced to tax revenues) with a maximum ceiling of 7,650 Euros, a direct aid that officially corresponds to the specific expenses linked to the work of a journalist.
For a journalist who earns 3,000 Euros net per month (3,700 gross), or 36,000 Euros per year, the deduction decreased their tax base by 18%. This aid to the press represents around 20 million Euros per year, just over 1% of total grants.
The fund for distribution aid and the promotion of the French press abroad is the successor to a former aid fund created at the end of the 50s and updated in 1991. It facilitates the publication of newspapers and magazines outside the Hexagon.
The fund for the development of digital press services, created in 2004 and renewed after the 2009 general press congress, aims to grant aid for the development of digital services projects. The aid depends on an ad hoc commission and the service have to be recognized by the joint commission of publications and press agencies. It has to contain a significant part in French or in a regional language in use in France, and contribute to the dissemination of French scientific thought and research. The subsidy for each project has a ceiling of 40% of the expenses and for a loan, 50%. For political and general information projects, these percentages are raised to 60% and 70%, respectively. Since February 2014, the digital press has benefited from a super-reduced VAT rate of 2.1%.
The intention of favouring the renewal and diversity of the press, which justifies the aid, in 1936 was enshrined in the development of joint bodies, such as the Press Paper Committee, in charge of fighting against speculation at that moment in time, when paper was scarce, as well as the Commission for professional journalist's permits.
In 2012, the French State devoted 1.2 million in direct aids (70 million to transport, subscriptions to the AFP, 250 million to the restructuring of Presstalis, the media distribution corporation) and indirect (postal aid, VAT reduced to 2.1 for the newsprint...), which represents 11% of the turnover of the sector, assessed at around 10,000 million Euros.
These aids are of significant size. The newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro are the best endowed, with 18.6 and 18.2 million Euros received respectively in 2015. According to the Ombudsman, these are some of the grants to newspapers, by copy sold:
L'Humanité: 48 cents
La Croix: 32 cents
Le Nouvel Obs: 29 cents
Libération: 27 cents
L'Express: 23 cents
Le Point: 20 cents
Le Monde: 19 cents
Le Figaro: 17 cents
Ouest-France: 6 cents
Le Parisien: 4 cents
In fact, it is not possible to know precisely what subsidies a particular medium gets. For example, in 2014 Le Monde benefited from 13.1 million in public aid, of which 3.6 corresponded to postal aid, 27% of the total. Regarding the number of copies sold, the subsidy was 14 cents per copy; this is, 12% of the price of the newspaper, which was sold for 1.20 Euros. Thus, subsidies represented 12% of the turnover in 2014, only referring to sales.
It is also denounced that a reduction of the published "aid" (called "individual aid") is being publicized to make people believe in their financial independence while, at the same time, postal aid received and that people do not know exactly how much because they are not make public.
All in summary, the general opinion is that aid to the press in France has been progressively emptied of meaning and interest. For decades, being sold the ideas of the virtues of liberalism, free competition and the neutrality of the State, the press defends itself tooth and nail, and disguises the privileges that the government gives, not without its counterpart, also behind the back of the French.
As with the unemployment statistics, the French government has decided to falsify the official figures on aid to the press. The manipulation of official statistics, even the suspension of its publication is a classic ruse in all dictatorships that, in the absence of being able to change reality, strives to conceal it from the eyes of the public