How far can Xavier Niel – founder of Iliad (parent company of Free) and shareholder of “Le Monde” and “l’Obs” – disrupt the PAF, the French audiovisual landscape? On Wednesday, November 30, while taking part in Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Washington, the businessman made known to the Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communication (Arcom, regulator which succeeded the CSA) its possible interest in an audiovisual frequency. These frequencies are rare, public goods, allocated free of charge by Arcom and on which private groups have built a business (Bouygues with TF1, Bolloré with C8 and CNews, the German Bertelsmann with M6, etc.).
However, the authorizations of TF1 and M6 expire in May 2023. And, for the first time, the audiovisual policeman will launch open calls for applications in the coming days, allowing new entrants to apply. Xavier Niel, who had tried to obstruct the TF1-M6 merger (ultimately aborted) by many means, is in the antechamber. He would be ready to go, he said, under certain conditions.
Its representative, Maxime Lombardini, who spent several years in the TF1 group, came to Arcom, escorted by lawyer François Sureau. He worked on Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in 2017, before taking a critical distance. It was he who was responsible, in front of the “wise men”, of giving meaning to this possible candidacy:
“We are in a moment where
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