Report July 2015 (Les Guignols, Cattles breeders‘ protest)

Popular Satire Show Banned from Free-to-Air TV

France, 14 Jul – 10 Aug 2015

TV show ‘Les Guignols’: Are the buffoons being muzzled? ++ Hollande’s ideas for France and Europe flouted by opposition ++ Cattle breeders protest against low meat prices
by Matthieu Choblet

TV show Les Guignols: Are the buffoons being muzzled?

 The French TV sector is in turmoil: Tycoon Vincent Bolloré has announced that he will reshape the broadcaster Canal+, a part of his corporate empire. At the heart of the discussion stands the satirical TV show Les Guignols, meaning ‘the buffoons’. The spoof news bulletin features latex puppets with the faces and imitated voices of France’s elite. Every weekday night, for five minutes, the show slates and scores off French politicians and celebrities – much to the delight of a wide audience and to the anger of many a prominent figure. Some critics have even claimed that the show was responsible for an anti-establishment mood among young French.

In June, first rumours that the show would be axed were met by a public outcry. The buffoons finally won a reprieve but will have to switch from free-to-air to a subscription-only slot, a move that is likely to severely reduce its audience. Also, four major members of the team behind the puppets will leave the show.

Could it be that Bolloré, a close friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, is trying to muzzle one of the establishment’s most renowned detractors? In an interview following his takeover of Canal+ earlier this year, Bolloré had pointed out that parts of the Canal+ programme were sometimes “a little wounding and unpleasant”. „Mocking yourself is fine, mocking others less so”.

Yet, “Mr. Bolloré’s personal opinion has no influence on his business decisions”, his associates declare. Accordingly, the billionaire entrepreneur’s sole interest is to bring fresh impetus to an enterprise which is said to have lost its vigor over the decades.

The public will only know what the revamped Guignols look like after the summer recess. Meanwhile, it can certainly be said, that Canal+’s owner will carefully weigh up the financial advantages and disadvantages of his choice. Guignol, who is known as a “corporate raider”, owns infrastructure and plantations in Africa, shares in the finance industry, advertising, media and opinion research. With a fortune estimated at 10 bn. euros he is the eighth richest man in France.

Hollande’s ideas for France and Europe flouted by opposition

A deal with Greece, a deal with Iran – President François Hollande was visibly proud to present the results of his diplomatic efforts during the last months on the occasion of the annual presidential TV interview on the 14th July, the French bank holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille during the revolution of 1789.

“I am not saying that France has won. It is Europe that won and France has had its role in it”, was the presidential message regarding the negotiations of Greece’s debt crises. The President knows though that his government requires at least a European back-up, if he wishes to influence international politics. Hence, the announcement that new plans for a common governance and a parliament of the Eurozone are in the making.

Also, the 61-year-old head of state didn’t miss the opportunity to cite former President and national icon Charles De Gaulle when he evoked the need to spread “a certain idea of France”. Prime Minister Manuel Valls immediately picked up this sentence on Twitter, adding a praise for the “determination and persistency” of the President. Valls also supported the idea of reshaping governance in the Eurozone, provided that it would be possible to unite a “vanguard” of the monetary union together with Germany and other founding members of the European Community.

Reactions of the opposition were less sympathetic. The President’s plan was “disconnected from reality and the everyday life of common French people” and was “compliant with Mrs. Merkel” bewailed critics. According to Nadine Morano, former conservative Minister, Hollande’s political choices are detrimental to French entrepreneurs.

 Cattle breeders protest against low meat prices

French cattle breeders organised a blockade of important traffic arteries in the east and north of France in protest against sinking prices. Indeed, prices for beef and pork have been dwindling for a long time, but a collapse of milk prices due to a global contraction in wholesale markets has worsened the farmers’ situation. The Ministry of Agriculture states that 10 percent of breeders are in serious financial difficulties.

Only two months ago, a preliminary agreement was reached, when wholesalers promised to raise the price for meat – not enough, as breeders say. Following an attack on a retail store by angry breeders, an alarmed Francois Hollande and his Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll promised to put up a 600 million euro rescue plan. Its main objective is to alleviate the farmers` debt burden. While France’s agricultural sector is becoming less relevant for the French economy, it remains culturally important to a country proud of its “terroir”, a concept that describes the unique character of agricultural land that has been cultivated for centuries.

A member of the government, who wished to remain anonymous, emphasised how important it was to react quickly. “There is the danger that tensions flame up during summer and that it all ends up in violence. This can happen very quickly, they – the farmers – have the means to jam quite a lot of things”.

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