French TV backtracks on pay for D-Day broadcasts

French TV backtracks on pay for D-Day broadcasts
D-Day events will be broadcats for free worldwide, despite an early controversy over fees. Photo: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP
A scandal that erupted in France over fees that could have limited the live broadcast of D-Day memorial events, has been squelched after the head of France's TV networks announced the broadcast will be free of charge.

Broadcast images of events marking the D-Day landings will be made freely available to news agencies and media outlets across the world at the request of the French presidency, broadcasters announced on Wednesday.

"For all foreign channels and agencies, given the exceptional nature of the event and at the request of the Presidency of the Republic, pictures will be available for free… for live broadcasts outside France," the TF1 and France Television channels said.

Contrary to convention for such major international events, TF1 and France Television wanted to charge agencies – such as Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, and ENEX (a global network of private channels) – for the right to broadcast the live images, including any images shown on the Internet.

The four agencies, which provide images to some 1,500 channels worldwide, had argued for free access to the broadcasts.

The agencies had also protested to the French presidency, which had asked TF1 and France Television to broadcast the events.

In the run-up to the events commemorating D-Day, the Elysee finally intervened by asking the broadcasters to waive charges for the international ceremony at Ouistreham and the Franco-American ceremony in Colleville.

But even before this, the US embassy had granted agencies the right to operate in an international pool at the ceremony in the cemetery at Colleville, as it is officially American territory.

Under the rules of a pooling system, a single television broadcaster or agency is responsible for the retransmission of an event and provides images free to other media, including competitors.

For the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, 20 heads of state and government will attend commemorative events on Friday, including presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, Queen Elizabeth II of England and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Also in attendance will be nearly 1,800 veterans, most of them older than 90, as well as thousands of visitors to the beaches of Normandy.

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