Following the world crisis that the media industry - like many others - has found itself in, the 'Etats generaux de la presse' in France have come up with their own dossier of solutions. The group represents large French press and media companies, and Nicolas Sarkozy will give his decision on the ideas on 23 January during his seasonal address to the press.
The proposals given to Christine Albanel, minister for culture and communication, include some 90 recommendations and are largely based on reducing production costs. They include a one-year suspension of this summer's agreement between the postal service and the press, which forecasted a rise in postal tariffs, and a temporary exoneration from a significant part of their social charges. There are also suggestions of a doubling of state advertising investment into the French written press in order to compensate for the effects of the global recession.
In a move to lower the 'extortionate' newspaper production costs, the new 'Livre vert', or white paper, calls for the opening of negotiations between the printing unions and the newspapers. Arnaud de Puyfontaine, who is concerned with industrial processes within the Etats, says that an agreement between the unions and the papers is essential, and that for many bosses within the industry, they really are 'last chance negotiations'.
In an interview with Libération, Bertrand Pecquerie, director of the World Editors Forum, declared the dossier to be 'full of good intentions' but went on to say that even though there appears to be discussion on the future of the industry, the real decisions have already been made. Within the proposals, Mr. Pecquerie sees no real vision of the written press past 2020 and believes that the French media will follow down the path that the UK and the US newspaper industry has taken, where papers as large as the New York Times have found themselves in real financial difficulty.
Discussing the future of the French newspaper industry, Pecquerie goes on to describe France's 'Etats généraux' as a truly French solution that the rest of the world would not consider, and he is not entirely sure of its merits. However, he does give a description of how he envisages the French press could continue. He believes that the French press must accept that its future lies in partnerships and externalization, following the example of the Italian and Spanish media giants. Only the big companies, he says, have the means to produce quality news in a truly multimedia world.