CNews, le ‘Fox News français’ qui surfe sur les mécontentements

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CNews, the creation of billionaire Vincent Bollore, took over French news channels in May by becoming a far-right spokesperson on issues of insecurity, immigration, climate and Covid.

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A selection of his best writings were translated into French. Find them here.

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Paris – This is the news channel that prides itself on saying what the mainstream “awake” media doesn’t say. Who says she is fighting for freedom of expression that will be in jeopardy, even though the audiovisual regulatory authority fines her for inciting racial hatred.

Welcome to CNews – which has spent the past four years giving voice to far-right politicians, climate skeptics and a notorious proponent of the discredited idea of ​​using hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, to treat Covid-19 reached the top of the channels. 19.

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We compare it to Fox News—the ultra-conservative American channel that supports heated debate on confrontational issues and tackles explosive social issues—and it works. Former CEO of media conglomerate Vivendi, owned by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, CNews has become essential in the national debate. The hot topics discussed there – such as insecurity, immigration and the place of Islam in France – will certainly undercut the 2022 presidential elections.

The channel’s extraordinary influence and controversial role became even more apparent this week when its number one star was forced to take it off the air because of a potential race for the next presidential election – a bid that could really change the picture.

in which country we don’t trust the media, CNews emerged at a time of extreme discontent – ​​following the 2018 yellow vest protests that, like the election of Donald Trump in the United States, provoked a great test of conscience among journalists. Misunderstood by traditional media outlets, the yellow vest heightened the impression that the media was focused on Paris and isolated from the rest of the country. In this new era, protesters sometimes attack reporting journalists and sometimes violently.

“People are fed up with political correctness. And so in France, for 30 years, 40 years, there has been information in the hands of newspapers, television, dailies that all say the same thing,” said Serge Nedjer, CEO of Cenuse, clarifying his position in the country of four 24 To-Hour News Channel.

Unlike its competitors, CNews focuses on “decoding and debating” topics that Serge Nedjar considers essential to the French but are neglected or insufficiently addressed by the media: “crime, insecurity, immigration”.

“We created this channel with the idea that we talk about everything, including hot topics,” he insisted.

Serge Nedjar claims he did not know Fox News at the time CNews was created and dismisses any comparisons. “There’s the word ‘news’, and then it’s good if it acts like Fox News,” he said of his channel’s name. “Fox News, it works really well, it seems.”

But for critics, the problem is less with the themes SceneNews has chosen and how they are treated. By emphasizing opinions that are often less supported by facts or surveys than they denounce, the channel relays prevailing prejudices and deepens the divisions of an already polarized society.

“It’s a way to snatch public opinion at its worst – that’s what we hear at Café du Commerce: ‘We can’t say anything more’, ‘we don’t have a right to talk about it’,” Alexis Levier is sorry, media historian at the University of Reims.

Beginning the school year after the summer break, CNews returns to a proven recipe for bridging racial and religious divisions, this time in response to Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of plans to relaunch Marseille – France’s second city, Which, the result of decades of immigration from Africa, also results in one of the most diverse populations.

On CNews, a presenter and her guests, including spokespersons for the far-right National Rally, have repeatedly predicted the plan’s failure. Guests described Marseille as a city of chaos made up of “enclaves” where one no longer felt in France because the residents were of “pre-European” origin.

Pascal Proud, one of CNews’s main animators, also teased, Emmanuel Macron to sprinkle his Marseille speech with unusual words such as “thaumturge” or “palimpsest”.

According to Serge Nedjar, CNews highlights personalities who are “normal people”, “not pretentious”.

“They don’t think he’s Victor Hugo,” he said.

Eric Zemour, the channel’s leading personality, has become a national figure and is the subject of two CSA decisions. He doesn’t hesitate to relay the conspiracy theory of the so-called “Great Replacement” of the population set up by newcomers to Africa. It’s a theory that inspired the white supremacists who perpetrated the massacres in Texas and Christchurch, and even far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen avoid mentioning it.

“You have a population that is French, white, Christian” of Greco-Roman culture, instead of “a population that is North African, African, mostly Muslim,” Eric Zemour declared on SeeNews. two weeks ago.

Superior Audiovisual Council, or CSA, has already given two decisions following the statements of Eric Zemour. He first served notice to CNews, then in March fined him 200,000 euros for spreading hatred. This is the first time a news channel has got such approval. Since June, the CSA – responsible for ensuring political balance in audiovisual media – has twice warned SeeNews not to present different perspectives and to provide excessive airtime at the national assembly.

Serge Nedjar responded last week that Eric Zemor was only exercising his freedom of expression and that the channel was appealing against the decisions. However, it was the fact that Zemour was considering running for presidential election last Monday that forced the channel to act. After the CSA ordered Mr Zemour’s airtime to be limited because he could be assimilated with a political actor, C News announced he would not attend his regular schedule.

The history of CNews begins in 2015 when Vincent Bollore takes control of the Canal Plus group, whose news channel i-Télé, the more leftist, is in trouble. In 2017 it was reborn under the name CNews.

In 2018 the Yellow Vest movement – ​​which originated from the French from the geographical and economic periphery – caught the media and political elite by surprise. Journalists have come to be perceived as opponents and have become targets of protesters, recalls Vincent Giret, Director of Information for Radio-France.

“There is a part of the French today that does not feel represented by what we hear or see in our media,” he admits.

At a recent press conference, Vincent Giret assured that Radio-France would insist on journalism based on facts, neutrality and reporting so as not to harm the “democratic debate”.

“We avoid — because we thought about it — presenting ourselves as anti-CNews,” he insisted.

In fact, according to media experts, the success of CNews has impressed its rivals, and especially Radio-France, which has just launched one. opinion section France at Inter.

“Our direct competitors, who have spent their time saying that we don’t exclusively do CNews, only do CNews,” laughs Serge Nedjar.

This summer, Seanews’s power is strengthened with the acquisition by Mr. Bollore, the billionaire owner of Europe 1 Radio. Many Seenews hosts now work on both channels.

Patrick Cohen, a veteran journalist, was one of those who left Europe 1, fearing that the channel would become the radio version of CNews.

“The origin of these channels is not the search for truth, but the search for controversy,” he cautions. “It is the function of these chains to create a breach.”

However, he believes that the impact of CNews on politics and the 2022 election will be limited. If CNews ranks first among news channels in May, its audience share is lower than that of traditional channels.

Others believe that like Fox News twenty years ago, Seenews has filled a void in the media landscape and pushed the French conservative slider further to the right.

“This is partly due to the influence of Fox News and it is completely changing the French political landscape,” confirms Julia Cagg, economist and media expert who teaches at Sci-PO.

At the beginning of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term, the presidential entourage followed BFM, a channel based on CNN that first handed the audience’s heads over to Seenews, explains media historian Alexis Levier. Now, he notes, he’s attached to CNews. However, BFM remained at the top of the general classification for the entire season.

Two years ago, some politicians – from the left, including the Greens, or Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party – vowed they would never set foot in the studio of Seenews. Since then, many have taken a discreet detour.

Even though he is cautious in developing the channel’s power, Serge Nedjar admits that “small, modestly, CNews was able to move the lines” on hot topics. He thinks CNews worries some in the government about it, who fear it could help a Marine Le Pen to power.

“I think they are afraid of the impact of CNews, which, I tell you, is not huge, but they are afraid of the impact of CNews a few months before the presidential election,” he says.

Leontine Galois contributed to this report.

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