Radio rift as France runs out of French music

Radio stations in France are rebelling against a plan to force them to play more French music. The problem appears to be that there just isn’t enough music being made in French anymore.

Radio rift as France runs out of French music
France is running out of French music and its putting pressure on radio stations. Photo: AFP

Numerous radio stations in France on Tuesday tore up the rule book and ignored a 21-year-old law that forces them to play a minimum amount of French language music.

The 24-hour protest is being led by independent radio stations and those in the Lagardere group like RTL, NRJ and Europe1.

That 1994 law laid down the rule that 40 percent of songs played on radio stations must be in French and was aimed at protecting homegrown Gallic talent from the rapid invasion of Anglo influences.

But a recent amendment to that law has got DJs frothing at their microphones and prompted this week's  24-hour rebellion. As well as the strike, listeners have also been encouraged to phone Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

The amendment, backed by France’s Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin (pictured below), was brought in after MPs claimed stations were flouting the quota law and simply playing the same old French songs just to meet the quotas.

(France's Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin. Photo: AFP)

From now on the ten most played French songs on the radio will only count towards 50 percent of the quota, meaning DJs will have to rummage around their record boxes to find other Gallic tracks. It is hoped the amendment will encourage them to play one or two extra tracks.

But the heads of radio stations have gone on the war path, accusing the minister of culture of lying and defaming them. They say the new amendment is an attack on their liberty.

They also claim the move will simply push music lovers towards streaming channels like Deezer and Spotify, which are not subject to any quotas.

Tareq Mami from the union Sirti, which represents 40 independent radio stations told The Local that it was ridiculous to not oblige internet sites to follow the same rules.

“It's like introducing a law whereby Renault cars can go through all red traffic lights but Peugeot cars have to wait through two red lights before they can move on,” he said.

“The law is already difficult for us without this new amendment.”

Emmanuel Rials president of the rock music station Oui FM said: “It’s not for MPs to tell us what we can and cannot broadcast,”  

“This puts us under artistic supervision;” Rials told Le Monde.

“We are suffering because of these quotas as listeners go to places where they can listen to what they want,” said Jean-Eric Vallis, chairman of Indés Radios umbrella group.

But the real reason that has led to the dispute arising is the huge decline in French music, or at least music in the French language.

While many French artists like Daft Punk and David Guetta have proved a success, they are opting to sing in English so as to widen their appeal beyond France.

(French music duo Daft Punk. Photo: AFP)

From 2003 to 2014 there was a 66 percent drop in albums produced in French to the point that a staggering 83 percent of French music is produced in English.

And between 2009 and 2014 the number of new songs produced in French fell by 47 percent, according to Indés Radios.

So while the old 1994 quotas remain in force, the choice of French music that radio stations have at hand is drying up.

Although these figures are disputed by many in the record industry, with the umbrella organisation SNEP claiming twice as many albums were produced in French in 2014 compared to 2013.

They claim radio stations have killed “musical diversity” and have backed the new amendment, which still needs government backing before it becomes law.

“This is a breakthrough for musical creation that does not at all hinder the editorial freedom of the radios,” said a joint statement by ten artists and organisations.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?