French Broadcasting Bill to become law in May

French National Assembly
French National Assembly

The Paquet Telecoms Bill 'shuttle' between France's upper and lower houses is to come to an end in middle of this month, when a joint committee pulls together a synthesis of the amendments passed—a number of which concern DTT—before the Bill becomes law.

For example, the Bill commits to analogue switchoff five years after the effective start of DTT, subject to the signal having a sufficient reach, technical evolution, and adequate public information. The final decision will be made by the CSA.

Another amendment raises the threshold at which a TV station may be considered 'local' to 12 million, meaning that channels aiming to broadcast to the Paris region may be considered 'local', and thus take local advertising.

The Bill also carries a 'must carry' clause for cablecos in which cable operators must carry the free terrestrial channels and make them available to their subscribers, free of charge.

The CSA is awaiting a final version of the Bill before it mandates the launch date for DTT, sometime between 1 December 2004 and 31 March 2005. It must give at least six months warning before the launch of DTT, which must reach at least 50 per cent of the population from the outset.

The CSA is also looking favourably on the idea of a having a pre-launch period of three or four months, using free-to-air channels in a few cities, in order to enable antenna installers to check reception, and also for the public to get accustomed to the idea of DTT.