CASE. Bolloré TV: clashes and trash until when?

the essential
Yet another slippage this week on Cyril Hanouna’s TPMP program on C8 once again questions the effectiveness of the sanctions already imposed by Arcom on the Bolloré group channel. Beyond these incidents and the billionaire’s reactionary agenda raise the question of media concentration, a vital issue for our democracy.

Vincent Bolloré, boss of the eponymous group and of Vivendi, the parent company of the Canal + group (owner of the free channels C8 and CNews), did he ever cross paths with Joseph P. Overton? Since the Breton billionaire has been interested in the media, advertising and communication, that is to say since the beginning of the 2000s, he has, in any case, perfectly used a concept developed by the American lobbyist, died in 2003, who served as vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative liberal think tank. This concept, already sketched by Anthony Trollope in 1868 in his novel “Phineas Finn”, took the name of “Overton window”.

Vincent Bolloré adjusts his hat as he wears traditional outfits during a ceremony marking his band's 200th anniversary at the Kerdevot Chapel in Ergue-Gaberic, Brittany.

Vincent Bolloré adjusts his hat as he wears traditional outfits during a ceremony marking his band’s 200th anniversary at the Kerdevot Chapel in Ergue-Gaberic, Brittany.

This virtual window is the perimeter of what can be said, discussed and accepted within a society in public debate. The ideas considered “acceptable” by the greatest number within a society – and therefore the public policies that result from them – are thus situated in this window. Conversely, violent – ​​and sometimes criminally reprehensible – racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic remarks are logically outside the window. But the window can move, move, expand or shrink in one direction or another depending on events and the evolution of social norms.

Imposing the most shocking ideas

“To succeed in gaining the support of the public, it is preferable to be located from the start within the window of socially acceptable proposals”, explained to Le Monde Cécile Alduy, professor of French literature at Stanford University ( California) and specialist in the analysis of political discourse. But for some who want to establish radical ideas that are a priori unacceptable, the window must be moved or enlarged. This strategy is that of the extreme right everywhere in the world: to launch the most shocking ideas to allow slightly less violent ideas to integrate the famous window of public debate. But these ideas, which are slowly spreading like poison in public debate, remain violent. Didn’t Hannah Arendt say that the lesser evil is already evil…

This strategy of transgression has been verified in the United States, with fake news and conspiratorial “alternative facts” since the eruption of the Tea Party until the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House.

Pascal Praud

Pascal Praud
MAXPPP – corsan olive tree

It is also true in France, where the hard right and the extreme right, from Eric Zemmour to Marine Le Pen, are multiplying their outbursts, convinced that to win power, you must first win over public opinion.

In this operation, the media are a key instrument: we have seen the pro-Trump activism of Fox News in the United States. We see in France that of the channels and media of Vincent Bolloré, since the gateways are now more and more in broad daylight between C8-CNews, Europe 1, the JDD and Paris Match.

Far right favored

This strategy of permanent transgression materializes in a multiplication of “slippages”, “shock sentences”, “buzz” of which the programs of Cyril Hanouna on C8 and Pascal Praud on CNews have made a specialty. On the first the trash polemics, on the second the debates full of clashes. In both cases, sets where the contradictory is almost systematically absent, conspiracy is a regular guest, and which leans very clearly on the side of the hard right.

A study carried out by Julia Cagé, Moritz Hengel, Nicolas Hervé and Camille Urvoy thus perfectly showed “an increase in the speaking time of the right, and especially of the extreme right on CNews, following the acquisition by Vincent Bolloré in 2015. Between that time and the 2019-2020 season, the airtime of the far right increased by 15 percentage points on CNews to 22.4% against 7.4% before its takeover. And what about the treatment of the last presidential election. The researcher Claire Sécail has, in fact, demonstrated how much TPMP had valued the far right, and in particular the candidacy of Eric Zemmour, to the detriment of the left, invisible…

Cyril Hanouna

Cyril Hanouna
MAXPPP – LP/Olivier Lejeune

Not only do these repeated slippages, which are self-sustaining with the fuel of social networks, ensure record audiences, but they obviously allow Vincent Bolloré to deploy his ultra-conservative, reactionary agenda.

The Breton magnate regularly assures – and again recently before the parliamentary commission of inquiry into media concentration – that his interest in the media is “neither political nor ideological”. But its permanent and assumed interventionism seems to say the opposite. “Vincent Bolloré has the same idea of ​​putting the media at the service of thought and a political agenda and also, of doing tele-clash, talk shows where we use fake news and debates rather than information”, recently estimated Julia Cagé, an economist specializing in the media.

story of an ogre

Since 2012, the controversies have multiplied, C8 has been sentenced several times – sometimes to very heavy fines – but the audience success is such that it always seems to supplant the sulphurous side of the program. Worse, it exercises an unhealthy fascination with politicians and other media. The former, invoking the need to “talk to everyone” and to the popular audience of TPMP, rush to Hanouna from Marlène Schiappa to Jean-Luc Mélenchon via Sandrine Rousseau. Some Insoumis have even become columnists like Raquel Garrido and Louis Boyard. And woe to those who dare to criticize the Bolloré media, the Minister of Culture knows something about it. As for the competing media, we are witnessing a lamentable race to the shallot which consists for them of relaying ad nauseam the controversies of C8 and CNews in the hope of inflating their digital audiences.

The lowering and hysterization of the public debate thus provoked by the Bolloré group’s channels raises all the more questions as the billionaire with brutal methods has embarked on a major offensive in publishing – the European Commission has, however, opposed on a preliminary basis to Vivendi’s takeover bid for Lagardère (Hachette). For Julia Cagé, who argues for action against media concentration, Vincent Bolloré “is developing a form of takeover of ideas, using all possible means to try to influence the debate of ideas. »

The permanent clashes of C8 or CNews are thus only the tip of the iceberg of the projects of Vincent Bolloré, who, more than a media tycoon, has become an ogre, of which the academician Erik Orsenna has just to be a character in a fairy tale.

A “Story of an ogre” whose end remains to be written: who will stop the ogre, and when?