International conference organised by MSH Paris Nord, MSH des Alpes, MSH d'Aquitaine, MSH de Paris, MSH Nord-Pas de Calais
and Gricis Université du Québec à Montréal, within the ACI programme
« Les mutations des industries de la culture, de l’information et de la communication : bilan, cartographie, observation ».
  Workshop 2.1 - Workshop 2.2 - Workshop 2.3 - Workshop 2.4 - Workshop 2.5
Workshop 2.3 Regulation
  Chairman :
- Eric George, University of Ottawa, GRICIS, Canada

Speakers :
Gilles Delavaud, Université Paris 8 - CEMTI, France
«Television in the 1940s : what content for the new medium? »

Jean-Matthieu Méon, Université Robert Schuman - GSPE-PRISME, Strasbourg, France
«The television content regulation by the CSA pictograms : The role of public actors in the activity of the ICIC »

Sylvain Parasie, ENS Cachan, France
« The eternal absent everyone is talking of : a story of the Televiewer’s place in French TV advertising regulation (1968-2005) »

Cécile-Marie Simoni, Université de Corse, France
« Reality TV and legal classification of TV broadcasts »
>>> Download the communication (French)

Rebecca Sullivan, University of Calgary - Faculty of Communication and Culture, Canada
«The Textual Body of Canadian Television»


«Television in the 1940s: what content for the new medium? »

Gilles Delavaud
Université Paris 8 - CEMTI, France

Having begun at the end of the 1930s, reflections on and speculations about the possible or desirable content of the new television intensified during the second half of the 1940s in conjunction with the progressive return of regular broadcasts, after the war, in several European countries as well as the United States.

In order to analyze the discourse of the different observers and agents involved (media professionals, industrialists, critics), three sorts of questions need to be differentiated and articulated:

  • those which concern the identity of the suppliers of content: Will the new medium rely for this on the film industry or on that of radio? Or will the television networks produce their own programs themselves?
  • those which concern the nature of the content: Will the new medium favor live broadcasting or, on the contrary, the broadcasting of pre-recorded content? Will it borrow its content more from live shows or from radio or movies?
  • those which concern the form of the content: How to consider the appropriateness of the content (in terms of format or apparatus) to both the constraints and the possibilities of the new medium, and also to the intended audience? What are the criteria for judging, on the level of production and on that of broadcasting and reception, whether a content has found an appropriate form?

Our investigation will focus on these last two points: on the one hand, we will compare the proposals and arguments that fed public debate in the different countries under consideration (France, Great Britain, the United States); on the other hand, we will compare the public discourses (values promoted, missions announced, fears and hopes expressed) with the different experiments and the first programs actually produced and broadcast.

« The television content regulation by the CSA pictograms: The role of public actors in the activity of the ICIC »

Jean-Matthieu Méon
Université Robert Schuman - GSPE-PRISME, Strasbourg, France

The transformations undergone by the French audiovisual sector during the Seventies became much more pronounced at the end of the Eighties:  the privatizations of TV channels have continued the process which began with the end of the ORTF (a national agency charged with providing public radio and television), what meant the – partly – withdrawal of the State and the liberalization of the sector. The audiovisual sector established itself as a culture industry which enjoys its autonomy and the recognition of its freedom. An independent authority such as the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel embodies these transformations and the regulationist vision that characterizes them.

That paper intends to think about the actual role of the public actors played then in the audiovisual sector, relying on the analysis of a system of content regulation – the television pictograms – and about the logics of its implementation. These pictograms, which have existed under several forms since 1996, are a direct product of the evoked transformations. Their existence results from debates which accompanied the privatizations and from their consequences on the programme contents (question of more violence and more sex). It especially represented for the CSA one of the first and main tools of the realization of its doctrine of audiovisual regulation.

The pictogram system rests on the claim to a sharing of responsibilities. The programme classification according to the different categories of pictograms is carried out internally by each TV channel, as the public authority (the CSA services) intervenes only a posteriori to validate or to criticize the selected classification. This sharing is called by the CSA officials "concerted control" or "co-regulation". However, the functioning of the system, approached in my empirical work, lets see a constrained sharing : this functioning is characterized indeed by the internalization by the TV channels of the control principles, which are integrated not only to the programming but also, previously, to the programme production.

In the configuration of control created by the CSA and the different TV channels, the regulation authority has consequently a dominating position. It is the result of two logics which are linked. Of course, it is question of a statutory predominance, which allows the CSA to insist on its requirements in terms of content about possibilities of sanctions for the channels. However, the respect by the channels of the principles advocated by the CSA is also to be understood as a strategy of these companies in the more general (and especially economic) games of negotiation that join them to the CSA: the good implementation of the pictograms constitutes also in that sense a proof of goodwill which makes more easier for the channels negotiations with the public authority in fields different from audiovisual regulation.

We can see consequently that, as the pictogram system includes a part of actual self-regulation and of negotiation, it creates a real public constraint on the activity of TV channels. Beyond the specificity of its field (programme control in the perspective of youth protection), the pictograms allow to understand the relations, both flexible and constrained, that link the audiovisual industry and  the public authorities, as well as to give an account of the role played by the public actors in this sector of the culture, information and communication industries.

To tackle this theme and these questions, I rely on an empirical work which combines analyses of documents (press, institutional publications) with field work (observation in the CSA, interviews with people in charge of control within the CSA and TV channels).

« The eternal absent everyone is talking of : a story of the Televiewer’s place in French TV advertising regulation (1968-2005) »

Sylvain Parasie
ENS Cachan, France

Cultural industries usually make a transmitter (a writer, a movie director, etc.), a diffuser (an editor, a newspaper or a broadcasting company) and a receiver (a reader, a televiewer or a listener) meet together. Their activities are submitted to legal obligations which consist in rights and duties. In their will to control these industries, public authorities, both national and European, are usually compelled to arbitrate between these rights. Given the deep changes European cultural industries have experienced since the beginning of the eighties – the “withdrawal” of the State, the enormous increase of cultural offer –, to what extent those changes did affect the role devoted to the receivers? In this paper, I shall ask this question by taking an example in French contemporary history. More precisely, I analyse the case of advertizing on French television since commercials started to appear on TV in October 1968. Up to what point can we say that the changes in the way commercials are controlled signify a greater role played by televiewers in this control? Since 1968 to 1987, the control of TV advertizing was made by a specific organization owned by the French state, the “Régie française de publicité”, which censured TV commercials. Between 1987 and 1992, the control was placed under the authority of new organizations (the so-called “independent state authorities”, such as the “Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel”) whose task is to control commercials along with Courts and professional organizations which promote “advertizing ethics”. Each of these organizations has specific means to represent televiewers. From this research, it appears that controllers conceived, until the eighties, the audience of TV advertising rather in paternalistic terms than in terms of televiewers “rights”. This situation deeply changes in the eighties, when the advertising market and the legal environment of broadcasting are both transformed. Then, the claim from advertisers and firms for the “freedom of commercial speech” changes the debates by connecting the rights of televiewers to the rights of advertisers. Last, since the beginning of the nineties, some controversies appeared concerning the acknowledgement and the extension of the televiewers’ rights.

« Reality TV and legal classification of TV broadcasts »

Cécile-Marie Simoni
Université de Corse, France

>>> Download the communication (French)

Reality TV forms today a phenomenon, which has revolutionized the broadcasting set up in France and in the world, but it must be considered as a change for the culture, information and mass media’s industries.

Reality TV has changed the cultural offer broadcasted by the television, which has involved a “decompartmentalization” of existing televisual genre. In fact, it has modified the view according to every program, which could belong to a predetermined genre, as games, variety shows, documentaries or even fictions, since reality TV took some characteristics from many of them in order to make a new genre, that we can call “hybrid”.

This point had something of an impact regarding the juridical sphere: a litigation concerning the legal definition as an audiovisual work of a reality TV show, showed firstly the vagueness about the concept of audiovisual work, and secondly, the opportunity to specify this concept.

- About the vagueness regarding the audiovisual work’s concept, they are the result of a double definition of the reality TV show considered as an audiovisual work, definition given by two different official organs: CNC (Centre National de la cinématographie)  on the one hand, and CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel) on the other hand. The definition given by the CNC has been established in order to provide for eventualities concerning productions which could have the advantage of a development grant given by the French organ called COSIP(Compte de Soutien des Industries de Programmes). In another way, the definition given by CSA was given in order to consider if the present work could be allowed as audiovisual work and as part of audiovisual works quotas imposed on TV channels for producing and broadcasting.

Furthermore, we have to take notice of this much debated definition: two complaints have been lodged, the first one against the CNC decision, the second one against the CSA decision.. The French Council of State confirmed the CSA position and the Administrative Court of Paris annulled the CNC decision.

- About the opportunity to clarify the definition of the audiovisual work, it appears that‘s the result of a sudden awareness regarding the necessity of such an evolution. In fact, many different definitions are coexisting, when they are following opposed and independent logics (copyright of the literary and artistic property, rights of audiovisual media).

As far back as 2001 and after the CNC decision, in order to solve the problems due to the vagueness and deficiencies of the definition regarding the audiovisual works, a massive consultation to ask the advices has been opened.  In March 2002, an official report has been drawn up on the question. The conclusion goes to prove that it will be necessary to start another cycle of consultation on every side. Some hypothesises have been suggested in order to do a step forward in the definition of an audiovisual work., but the solutions found by the concerned actors showed a situation without any surprise and were not well adapted to the reality TV. Since October 2005, CSA announced that it will start a succession of audits concerning the audiovisual actors (creators, producers, television channel …etc.). These audits will be followed by a report which one will be given to the Minister of Culture and Communication, in order to reform and to state the audiovisual definition precisely.

On the other side of the juridical debate regarding the definition of the audiovisual work, which is going on for four years, we have to analyse reality TV as a real change from the economic point of view and also from the sociological point of view.

« The Textual Body of Canadian Television »

Rebecca Sullivan
University of Calgary - Faculty of Communication and Culture, Canada

This paper is intended as a challenge to the dominant framework for television studies in Canada, which tends to examine the political economic aspects of regulation based on technologically deterministic assumptions about the function and uses of television in serving official state goals. Within this body of research, cultural questions of the content, audience and social discourses of television are not explored as fully as are those about networks, policy, technology and the role of the state. Maurice Charland (2005) has characterized this tendency as “technological nationalism,” in which the infrastructure itself is the locus for nationalist rhetoric.

By contrast, I argue along with Jeffrey Sconce that television should not be viewed as a technological “problem” to be fixed but as a “textual body” to be engaged (2004, 94). Understanding television as a textual body means exploring how it mediates symbolic relations of power. Perhaps more than any other mass medium, television has been at the centre of nationalist discourses in Canada, albeit in conflicted and sometimes outright contradictory ways. It is one of the most highly regulated media, with strict ownership and content rules, yet Canadian television programming is rarely watched by its own home audiences. In order to get at the heart of this issue, a critical cultural approach to television is required. This means examining the “text” of television in the social and historical context of its status in Canada as both a profit-generating private enterprise and a public covenant between state and citizen. It further requires examining extratextual discourses about television from invested stakeholders such as cultural producers, lobbyists, and audiences.

To this end, I will begin my investigation with a look at the most recent report on Canadian broadcasting, “Our Cultural Sovereignty” (2003), which continues a long tradition of calling for protectionist measures that privilege a homogenous view of Canadian national identity. In order to reveal the ideological assumptions embedded in this dominant view of television, I will first provide a brief historical overview of political and economic arguments in favour of this position and then launch a challenge through some key cases in which multicultural audiences were denied access to certain television channels in the name of national unity. My conclusions will draw upon new challenges facing national television projects in the wake of globalization and the ever-accelerating mobility of texts and their audiences. At stake is the role of television in the construction of the public sphere, symbolic territories, and relations between audiences and cultural gatekeepers.