On June 1, the Ministry of Culture published the list of titles and press groups that have benefited, from 2016 to 2019, from direct and indirect aid to the press. Figures that confirm an already well-known trend: in 2019, half of this aid benefited 6 press groups owned by a handful of extremely wealthy businessmen. Bernard Arnault and his LVMH group win the cup.
It is not really a discovery, but the figures recently published by the Ministry of Culture allow us to give an account of the extent of the phenomenon. In 2019, more than half (51%) of the 76 million euros allocated in press aid benefited 6 groups, belonging to 8 extremely wealthy families or businessmen:
– The richest man in France, Bernard Arnault, wins as every year the palm with 16 million euros paid to the holding UFIPAR (The Parisian, Today in France, The echoes) branch of LVMH.
– Follow the Dassault family, with 6.4 million euros paid to the Figaro Group (Le Figaro, Le Figaro Magazine especially).
– The publishing company of Le Monde (The world, Telerama, International mail in particular), three-quarters owned by Le Monde Libre, whose main shareholders are Xavier Niel, Matthieu Pigasse, Daniel Kretinsky and Madison Cox, receives 6.3 million euros.
– Patrick drahi is not left out, with 5.9 million euros paid to SFR Presse (Release, L’Express) ;
– then Arnaud Lagardere with 2.1 million euros allocated to Lagardère Media News (Paris Match, The JDD) ;
– and Nicolas Beytout with 2 million euros paid to Bey Medias Presse et Internet (L’Opinion).
In all, the 39 million euros allocated to these 6 groups in 2019 represent more than half of the total press aid paid. And that’s without counting, for the regional daily press, the 5.2 million euros paid to Sipa-Ouest France (managed by the Hutin family) and the same amount offered to the Ebra Group (grouping nine regional dailies – including The Dauphiné freed, Progress, the Latest News from Alsace and Republican East), owned by Crédit Mutuel.
In short, public aid to the press goes to the richest. This trend is sustainable, since the same six groups considered benefited from nearly 40 million euros in 2018 and 36 million euros in 2017.
The breakdown of aid makes it possible to account for the different types of resources received by the securities. Three categories emerge:
– Direct aid received by press titles (49 million euros), which covers direct aid to pluralism (national publications with low advertising resources, regional dailies with low classified advertising resources, and periodical, regional and local press) for an amount of 17 million euros in 2019; support for porterage for an amount close to 24 million euros; as well as project aid from two funds: the strategic fund for the development of the press (FSDP) and the support fund for emergence and innovation in the press (FSEIP) for an amount of 8 million. euros.
– Aid for the distribution of the national daily press (27 million euros) is the second major category.
– Aid for “social modernization”, much more marginal, representing a hundred thousand euros.
The considerable amounts received by the largest press groups are largely linked to direct aid (including aid for pluralism and portage) and aid for distribution:
We note a particularity for SFR Presse and Bey Médias: direct aid constitutes the largest part of the aid received. This results from the fact that Release and L’Opinion are beneficiaries of pluralism aid for national publications with low advertising resources (to the tune of € 3 million and € 1.1 million respectively).
As for the distribution aid, it is carried out, according to the Ministry of Culture, ” in proportion to the number of copies sold in year n-1 by each of these titles. “Contacted by us, the ministry specifies that the amount of the aid is proportional to the number of copies actually sold per issue (in newsstands or other) . The ratio is supposed to be the same for each security and around € 0.39. The table below indicates the amount of aid allocated to each daily newspaper as well as the amount of actual number sales according to the CMPA figures:
Source: Ministry of Culture, ACPM (Acrimed table)
We can see it: the extent of press aid granted to LVMH via its holding company UFIPAR can be explained in large part by the newsstand distribution ofToday in France. Aid for the distribution of this daily represents 83% of the total aid granted to UFIPAR. It alone represents 17% of total aid to the press. Almost a fifth of the total budget is thus devoted to subsidizing the distribution of the national version of the Parisian, flagship daily newspaper of the LVMH group, across the country . Another lesson: the weakness of newsstand sales of other dailies. Newsstand sales ofToday in France alone represent 47% of the total sales of the 8 dailies benefiting from distribution aid.
The figures for 2019 confirm a well-known trend: aid to the press feeds the cash registers of the main press groups. They subsidize the distribution across the country of a handful of dailies owned by a few billionaires. They are thus strengthening their hold on the French press, instead of supporting pluralism and diversity. The press aid figures testify, through the tape, to the crisis in the distribution of the paper press, and the weakness of newsstand sales of the main dailies even before the Covid crisis. Finally, these aids stand out for their opaque and arbitrary nature, despite the transparent facade of the figures published. This was moreover the case for the additional public aid granted, without any conditions, to large press groups during the Covid crisis (as noted in August 2020 by this article of Judgment on images or this press release from the SNJ-CGT) . An overhaul of the press support system, like the press distribution system, is more necessary than ever.