French radio journalists strike in protest over plans to merge with ‘France’s Fox News’

Billionaire Vincent Bolloré's bid to shake up the French news media by catering to conservative and right-wing voters is facing resistance from journalists at his next target, one of the country's biggest private radio stations.

French radio journalists strike in protest over plans to merge with 'France's Fox News'
Outside the Paris building that is home to Europe 1 radio and a number of other media outlets. Photo: Philippe Lopez | AFP)

Employees at Europe 1 have been on strike since Friday as fears simmer about efforts to shift the station’s editorial line under pressure from Bollore.

Underlying the turbulence are moves to bring Europe 1 together with CNews, a rolling TV news channel launched in 2017 by Bolloré’s media group that critics have likened to Fox News in the United States.

“Day after day, the station seems to align itself a bit more with the output of CNews,” a column published at the weekend by Europe 1 journalists and union representatives said.

Writing in Le Monde newspaper, they described CNews editorial stance as “strongly anchored to the right, even at times to the far right” and warned that Europe 1 risked losing, “what is most precious: its credibility among listeners.”

Last month, management at the radio station confirmed plans for the first time to create links between the two Bolloré-controlled companies, which will see more sharing of programming and on-air talent.

The tie-up is seen as being driven by commercial logic – struggling Europe 1 has been shedding listeners for years, while CNews with its raft of celebrity presenters is going from strength to strength.

But the possible political consequences of a closely linked radio and TV operation have not been missed by President Emmanuel Macron, who is said to be monitoring events closely ahead of presidential elections next year.

“If in the future Bollore does exactly what he wants with Europe 1, and does the same thing as he did at CNews, clearly that gives him colossal (political) firepower,” said David Medioni, head of a Media Observatory at the Jean-Jaures Foundation, a left-leaning think-tank.

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French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

The French military has banned Russian nationals from visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress, tourist attraction and military site on the edge of Paris, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials told AFP.

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

Once the residence of French kings and among Europe’s best-preserved monuments of its kind, the castle is for the most part open to the public, including for tours, concerts, theatre plays and other events.

But although best-known as a tourist attraction it is also technically a military site, housing part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

The mounted Garde republicaine – a division of the French military – are also partially based at the chateaux.

It is therefore covered by a French ban on Russian nationals entering army territory that was issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Each year some 150,000 people visit the chateau, paying €9.50 per adult admission.

But on July 28th, two Russian women were refused access.

“A guard at the metal detector asked to see my passport,” said one of the women, 31, who works as a journalist and has been in France for five months, having left Russia “because of the war”.

On inspecting the document, the guard informed her she couldn’t pass, the woman, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Another guard also denied her entry and gave as the reason “because you are Russian”, she said, adding she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry confirmed late Monday that it had, indeed, “restricted access to military installations to Russian nationals” because of the invasion.

But after media coverage and social media comment, the ministry contacted AFP on Tuesday to say that the guards had in fact “indiscriminately applied a rule established in February concerning all military installations”.

“This rule cannot be applied in the same way for strategic sites and for sites accessible to the public, such as museums,” a spokesman said.

The ministry said security staff would now be informed of the distinction “to avoid any further incidents of this kind”.

Russian journalists could, however, apply for an exemption, a ministry official added.

The majority of France’s most popular tourist sites have no military function and would not be affected by the ban. 

Since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, France has taken in some 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, government figures show.

About 73,500 Russian immigrants lived in France in 2021, according to the national statistics office Insee.

There has been debate within the European Union about whether further limits should be placed on Russians visiting the bloc for tourism or personal reasons.

Russia’s neighbour Finland last week issued a plan to limit tourist visas  for Russians but also emphasised the need for an EU-level decision on the matter.