The Jean Jaurès Foundation, in collaboration with the National Audiovisual Institute (INA), published a study on March 17 regarding the media coverage of the European Union on the main French televisions (TVs): the 20H of TF1, the 20 heures of France 2, the 19/20 of France 3, the l’Info du Vrai of Canal+, the 1945 of M6 and Arte Journal.
A general overview of the study
Two months before the elections, the study shows that more than 50% of French people (six out of ten) ignore how to elect European Parliament’s members (MEPs). Furthermore, the news on the European Union remain very marginal on the French TVs, representing only 2.7% of the topics broadcast in 2018. While the European election campaign is struggling to get going, the lack of knowledge of French people about the functioning of the EU is likely to be linked to the media coverage allocated to EU news from French television. Yet, this remains the largest mass media in France.
« The EU, its institutions, its actions or its relations with its member states, are mentioned in 2.7% of the topics broadcast on television. A result that falls to 1.9% with the exclusion of Arte. […] In other words, the TV guide of TF1, France 2, France 3, Canal + and M6 broadcast in 2018 a proportion of 4 subjects evoking EU news of every 200 subjects on the air ». For instance, the most watched TV programme in France, the 20 heures of TF1, “broadcast 87 topics on European challenges in a total corpus of 6056 subjects, which represents 1.4% of topics relating to the European Union”.
Among the topics dedicated to the European Union, three major thematic issues stick out: the Brexit negotiations follow-up, news related to migration policy and the evolution of European relationship with the United States. These subjects occupy about the 40% of the topics mentioning the European Union.
The treatment of EU news of the editorial staff
Guillaume Debré, head of the News department at TF1, Pascal Doucet-Bon, director of information for France Télévisions, Pascal Verdeau, permanent correspondent of France Télévisions in Brussels, and Frédéric Méon, editor-in-chief of Arte Journal, have accepted in the framework of this study to explain the editorial strategy of their channels and their vision of the current European news to Rémy Broc and Théo Verdier, members of the French-European Movement.
The editorial staff of France 2 and TF1 insist on the nature of their 20H program, perceived as “generalist”. According to Guillaume Debré, the EU news “require a level of culture and European knowledge that many of our viewers do not have”, so are not suitable for its TV show. The two channels are trying to make the EU news digestible for a wide range of viewers.
According to the director of information for France Télévisions, Pascal Doucet-Bon, « It is not Europe that does not work. What does not work on the air, they are guys in suits and ties that no one knows, who may speak other languages and who take decisions that seem distant ». As a counterexample, the United States enjoys in our TV show a preeminent airtime. “We see a weak appetite of the audience on European institutions as such”, says Mr. Doucet-Bon.
On the contrary, as the data detailed in this study indicate, the channel Arte Journal is fully committed to cover European issues. “We are very interested in what is happening in Europe. This does not prevent to describe the international news in a broader sense, but our first vocation is Europe”, claims Frédéric Méon, editor-in-chief of Arte Journal.
Thereby, the French channels seem to take their daily distance from the issues of the European community. The permanent correspondent of France Télévisions in Brussels, Pascal Verdeau, states that “the priority of TV channels should be primarily to give a French perspective to things”.
What perspective ?
At a time when the European Union deals with many important social issues, such as ecological transition, migration or security policy, the French channels fail to present to their viewers a correct representation of EU political life.
The lack of European news in the first mass media in France tends to limit the purpose of public debate at national borders. Furthermore, some editorial teams encounter significant difficulties in making the daily European news a « topic of conversation », as observed in the study.
The diversity of television news is also in the organisation of their teams. The interviews with the channels also made it possible to note that, usually, they do not have internal tools to evaluate the impact on the audience of the various European news broadcast in their programs.
The TV channels have a fundamental task: being the first vector of French integration into a public debate that transcends national borders.
 For further information : https://jean-jaures.org/nos-productions/l-union-europeenne-grande-absente-des-journaux-televises
 The channel M6 did not respond to their interview requests.
Le Taurillon. Pourquoi l’Union européenne est- elle absente de nos journaux télévisés ? https://www.taurillon.org/pourquoi-l-union-europeenne-est-elle-absente-de-nos-journaux-televises
Fondation Jean Jaurès. L’Union européenne, grande absente des journaux télévisés https://jean-jaures.org/nos-productions/l-union-europeenne-grande-absente-des-journaux-televises
Libération. Journaux télévisés : l’Union européenne mal traitée à l’antenne https://www.liberation.fr/france/2019/03/17/journaux-televises-l-union-europeenne-mal-traitee-a-l-antenne_1715788