So, over in the land of Freedom Fries and Jerry Lewis…there’s a new news policy afoot. President Sarkozy is going where the U.S. government has thus far feared to tread: he’s bailing out France’s newspapers.
Sarkozy’s plan has a two-pronged intervention strategy. First, the French government will increase its annual support for newspaper and magazine deliveries—from last year’s 8 million euro (about $10.2 million) to a relatively whopping 70 million euro (about $90 million). It’ll also spend 20 million euro (about $25.5 million) for advertisements in print publications.
Second, the government will begin providing, on citizens’ eighteenth birthdays, a free, yearlong subscription to the news daily of their choice. (The publishers will give the papers away, and the government will pay the delivery charges.) Per the AP,
That initiative appeared designed to assuage industry fears that young readers don’t share the same appetite for print media that their parents and grandparents have, denting current and future revenues.
“The habit of reading the press is learned very young,” Sarkozy said, while insisting that the aid would only buy time for publishers to adapt to the new media landscape.
I’ll be fascinated to see whether these initiatives—which are designed “to modernize and invest in the print media sector in exchange for important structural reforms” over the next three years, Sarkozy said—do indeed inject much-needed reform into the flailing French newspaper business. I’ll also be interested to hear which newspaper (Le Monde? Le Figaro? Libération?) proves the most popular choice among French teenagers.
In the meantime, will any of this prove instructive for the U.S. government and its news industry? Probably not (socialism! socialism! socialism!). But vive la différence, and everything.Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.