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Who’s who in French TV, newspapers and magazines

All media organisations have an editorial line. France is no different.
All media organisations have an editorial line. France is no different. Here is a political guide to the country's media. (Photo by Ludovic Marin / AFP)
With a presidential election coming up in France, every news outlet will put its own spin on things. If you are an avid consumer of French news, it is worth understanding the traditions and political leanings of the various French media sources.

All publications around the world have an alignment with a certain philosophy, ethos or political slant, and France is no exception. 

With a presidential election set to be held in April 2022, we take a look at some of the most popular French news organisations to help you understand the likely angles.

Newspapers 

  • Le Monde 

Widely considered France’s newspaper of record, Le Monde, is generally considered to be a centre-left publication – although it claims to be non-partisan. It truth, it is a very straight bat newspaper offering a rich variety of hard news, colourful reportage and socio-cultural critique. It regularly features expert voices from across the political spectrum. 

  • Le Figaro 

This is a pretty right-wing newspaper. It is the kind of publication that will run scare headlines about immigrants, based on polls conducted on its own readers. It has swayed slightly further towards the centre in recent years. It was a key public supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy during his tenure as president – and most Le Figaro readers today still vote for the centre-right Les Républicains party. 

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  • Libération 

Co-founded by Jean-Paul Sartre in the wake of the 1968 student protests, it will come as no surprise to read that Libération, popularly known as Libé, is a newspaper on the left. Like Le Figaro, it too has moved closer to the centre in recent years. The newspaper is known for its investigations into abuses of power. Before the second round of the 2017 election, it urged readers to vote for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen to avoid a far-right president. 

  • Le canard enchainé 

This weekly newspaper, sometimes compared to the UK’s Private Eye, is highly influential in French politics. Journalists at Le canard enchainé (the chained duck) are excellent at securing leaks from people in high places. It is known for its investigations and it’s exposé helped cripple the presidential campaign of the LR candidate, François Fillon, in 2017. Everyone in the French political world keeps a close eye on this newspaper, which is offers a hive of inside knowledge and political gossip. Because it fearlessly exposes the establishment, some believe Le canard enchainé to be left-wing. But the paper has also exposed abuses of left-wing candidates in the past. 

  • Sud-Ouest 

This is a regional publication but is still consistently one of the most read newspapers in France and covers a lot of national and international news. Its motto is: “The facts are sacred, the commentary is free.” This newspaper reports a lot of hard news, without giving away its political leanings. It features guests editorials from most sides of the political debate.

  • La Croix

This newspaper has some outstanding international coverage and a pretty neutral tone when it comes to coverage of domestic politics in France. It is however, unashamedly Catholic and a significant portion is devoted to stories that have some link or other to Christianity. 

  • Le Parisien 

This is essentially a tabloid, without long opinionated diatribes. Le Parisien is factual, punchy and don’t seem lean one way or the other. It also offers a rich guide to goings on in the French capital alongside a strong national news coverage. It is lacking slightly however when it comes to international coverage. 

  • Les Échos

This is an aggressively free-market newspaper that mostly covers financial news. It self-describes as a liberal publication, arguing that to believe in the supremacy of markets is not an ideology. This is a good newspaper to turn to if you are interested in finance, tax reforms, privatisation and macroeconomics.

Magazines/websites 

  • Valeurs actuelles 

“The right-wing magazine that admits it” – the slogan of Valeurs actuelles tells you everything you need to know. It is economically liberal and socially conservative. It has been accused of racism, islamophobia, sexism and antisemitism. Even Le Figaro has described it as “extreme”. Last year, the magazine published an open letter signed by former military servicemen warning of a future civil war and calling for people to rise up “against the hordes from the banlieues”. 

  • Marianne 

This loosely left-wing magazine is published weekly. Circulation has plummeted in recent years and the publication has tried to shock audience with unexpected, provocative right-wing titles, seemingly designed to incense their audience, like “Why does the left see fascists everywhere?”; “Divisions and arguments: The crazy Left”; and “In France, do we have the most stupid Left in the world?” 

  • Médiapart 

These guys are the big hitters of French investigative journalism and lean slightly to the left. It has a long track record of exposing abuses of power committed by the country’s economic and political elite – stretching all the way up to former president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Médiapart is only available online. 

  • Charlie Hebdo 

This satirical magazine publishes incredibly offensive cartoons. But that is the point – it is non-conformist, radical and chaotic. Sadly, this publication is best known for being the target of a 2015 terror attack, in which 12 people were killed. It is not somewhere to go for serious news, but has certainly made a name for itself. 

  • Paris Match 

This is a weekly news magazine, with a heavy sprinkling of celebrity gossip and photos, it’s often compared to Hello magazine. It leans to the right and is often the place where conservative candidates go for fawning profiles in the run-up to an election. 

News broadcasters 

  • BFMTV 

This is the most watched French news channel and is seen as being right-leaning. Critics accuse BFMTV of acting as a government mouthpiece. If you see their news crews on the ground, it is not uncommon to hear a crowd of people shouting “BFM collabo, BFM collabo”. While its 24 hour coverage can be repetitive and slightly tabloid, the BFMTV newsroom has clearly cultivated strong sources and is often the first French news broadcaster to break major stories. 

  • Franceinfo 

This publicly funded TV and radio broadcaster is reliable and doesn’t tend to spin the news politically. While it doesn’t get to the news as fast as BFM, it is more interesting visually and carries a wider variety of stories – not focused solely on issues of government, crime and immigration and it good at providing detailed breakdowns of new announcements, laws or rules.

  • CNews 

Often compared to Fox News, this is brazenly conservative, anti-immigrant and pro-business. It is also the channel on which Éric Zemmour, a far-right presidential hopeful, made his name as a prime time polemicist. CNews is owned by the French billionaire, Vincent Bolloré, who also part owns radio station Europe 1, newspaper Le Journal de Dimanche, and Paris Match magazine. 

  • TF1 and France 2

These are not 24-hour news channels but do broadcast popular nightly news programmes. TF1 is privately owned and has incredibly glossy, high-production news coverage. It is sometimes accused of having a right-wing bias but not everyone agrees on this. It’s 20H slot is the place to find ministers explaining the government’s latest announcements and decisions.

France 2 is a publicly-owned channel with a strong pedigree of investigative reports – it is pretty difficult to discern any political leanings one way or the other with this broadcaster. 


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