French senators approved controversial government legislation abolishing the countrys 89-year-old TV license fee in the first hours of Tuesday morning following a two-hour late-night debate.
The 348-member upper house, where centre-right affiliated members contain the majority, voted and only the legislation 196 votes to 147.
The fee, currently set at 138 euros ($141) per year, generated 3.2b in 2022 and the lions share of funding for France Tlvisions, Radio France, Franco-German broadcaster Arte and international TV channels France 24 and RFI.
Beneath the legislation, the 23 million French households owning TV sets that currently pay the fee will never be billed this fall. The federal government is proposing that funding for the sector is currently removed from value-added tax (VAT) revenues.
However, Tuesdays vote also saw the Senate approve an amendment to the bill stating that approach to funding could only be considered a temporary measure lasting until December 31, 2024.
The continuing future of the license fee that was first introduced in 1933 to cover radio services and expanded to cover TV in 1946 has been under debate for near ten years amid the rise of digitisation and multi-platform viewing.
Your choice to suddenly scrap the fee, however, follows an election promise by President Emmanuel Macron during his re-election campaign in March.
The majority of the senators taking to the ground on Monday evening agreed the fee was obsolete and needed rethinking, but many speakers voiced discontent at the precipitous way it had been being abolished.
Centre-right senator Roger Karoutchi said the countrys state audiovisual sector have been ripe for reform for a long time and that the abolishment of the license fee was just one single aspect of this overhaul.
He said there would have to be an in-depth debate and parliamentary report in to the future of the sector where its future missions and perimeters were set.
Once these aspects have already been defined, then we are able to define the finance, the method of financing and the framework, he said.
Culture Minister Rima Adbul Malak, who participated in the debate, said the federal government remained focused on public sector broadcasting but a amount of challenges faced the sector, topped by falling viewership among younger audiences, distrust of the media and the rise of the global platforms.
She said in an indicator of its commitment the federal government had made a decision to maintain current objectives and funding levels for another year to provide the time essential to develop a road map together for hawaii audiovisual sector.
The bill to scrap the fee is roofed in a supplementary budget package targeted at tackling the cost-of-living crisis. The Senate is rushing to vote on the complete package of measures with time for the parliamentary summer recess running August 7-24.
After the Senate has approved the package and set its amendments, it’ll return to the low house for final approval.