Radio broadcasting varies all over the world, and in this series of blogs, I will discuss radio in different countries. Our first stop is France – a western Europe country home to 67 million.
Radio Paris was the first commercial radio station in France and began operations in 1922. Following Radio Pris, Radio Toulouse and Radio Lyon opened up. In 1923, broadcasting became by law a state monopoly, though certain private stations were permitted. By 1940, France was home to 14 commercial and 12 public sector stations. The French government had tight control over radio stations and discouraged political debate. Stations were only allowed 21 minutes to cover all the day’s news, which was carefully supervised by the Prime Minister’s office.
In 1964, the Office de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision Française (ORTF) replaced former radio monopoly agencies. The ORTF was the national agency that provided public radio and television, which included strict control over all programming and news broadcasts. However, in 1981 radio was “liberated” with the influence of François Mitterrand, the President of France from 1981 to 1995. Mitterrand hoped to permit the growth of radio stations through privatization and fewer regulations.
A few years later in 1994, French law was introduced, which stipulated that at least 40 percent of songs played on stations must be in French. This was in aims to stop the invasion of English into French culture and give a helping hand to homegrown talent. Over time, many radio stations and musical artists became opposed to the law. Many French musicians wanted to sing in English to attract a broader international audience but hindered the ability of France radio stations to play their songs.
In 2015, the French government was in a battle with radio stations as many music radio stations staged an unprecedented protest to boycott the quota. A group of stations defiantly ignored the allowance for 24 hours in hopes of getting authority attention. Later in 2016, the government lowered the quota to 35 percent and allows radio stations specializing in foreign music to only follow a 15 percent quota.
French quota has shaped the history of radio broadcasting in France. However, over time, these quotas and government power have been declining. It will be interesting to see how French radio will continue to change over time.
Mitch Levy has spent nearly 30 years in radio and sports broadcasting after earning a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse. Read more of his advice for the radio industry or check out his Twitter!