Culture, The Other Goal of Hollande’s Presidency

It was June 8 at the Ateliers Berthier of the Odéon Theater in Paris, François Hollande, his girlfriend, and David Kessler, the cultural counselor of the Elysée, went to the theater as any other spectator to see Joël Pommerat’s play, My Cold Room.

Aside from the anecdotal aspect, the presence of the President of the Republic at the theater is emerging as the symbol of a new era of cultural politics. The only thing missing was the young Minister of Culture and novelist, Aurélie Filippetti. It seems like a long time ago time when Nicolas Sarkozy mocked intellectuals and the book Princess of Cleves. But going to the theater or having the support of artistic personalities is not enough to build a project for the future, in a changing field that is often forgotten about in this time of crisis. This article will focus on three priority issues.

Hadopi

The first major cultural issue of the presidency is the reform of the Hadopi law that is about to be put in place, with the appointment of a media personality, Pierre Lescure, as head of a think tank.

Created in December 2009 by Nicolas Sarkozy, the Hadopi Institution intended to protect authors against internet downloads by sanctioning pirates. When someone is caught downloading a file illegally with peer-to-peer, a gradual response system begins, first a warning email, in cases of repeat offenses by a letter in the mail, and in extreme cases, the case is taken to court. Between October and June 2011, 500,000 people received a first warning, 26,000 received letters in the mail, and 60 offenders might face legal charges.

This reform could cause many debates in government, as supporters and opponents of Hadopi have clashed since the group’s creation. Some criticize it as detrimental to civil liberties, others defend its pedagogical values. Hollande’s position remains vague on the subject. During his campaign, he always preferred to talk about a replacement “by Act II of the cultural exception,” rather than an outright repeal.

Aurélie Filippetti, the Miniser of Culture, is not completely against Hadopi. Even if she refuses to disconnect pirates from the internet, she is against the legalization of peer-to-peer and is also against global licencing, a law that would allow the exchange of cultural goods over the internet, compensating the authors with payment from internet providers, for example. Fleur Pellerin, Minister for the Digital Economy, is more liberal on these issues, defending a law “with tasks of monitoring and warning.”

David Kessler, cultural counselor of the President, will undoubtedly have the last word on this issue: “It is not enough to say we are against Hadopi, for example, we still have to make propositions. The question of copyright remains fundamental: how do we feed an artist?”

5.5% TVA Tax on Books

It was a campaign promise, and it will be kept. On June 21 the Minister of Culture announced the return of the TVA – value added tax- of 5.5% on the price of books. The former government had increased it to 7% on April 1, 2012. For Aurélie Filippetti, this change will be made progressively according to “technical and logistical constraints.” More than 700,000 references have to be modified again.

In the long run, a broader reflection on the future of the book trade needs to take place. During a meeting with the representatives of the sector, various proposals were outlined, including an attempt to save small, independent bookstores who have to compete with bigger stores and online booksellers.

The Minister insisted on the necessity of “giving sufficient economic margins back to bookstores to finance their business and enable them to fully carry out their missions of promoting creative publishing and training citizens.” His predecessor, Frédéric Mitterand, already created a committee on the subject last January.

The audiovisual

Another major project for the Minister of Culture is the reform of public broadcasting that should be presented at the beginning of 2013.

In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy eliminated advertising on public television and claimed the right to appoint the presidents of France Télévision and Radio France. The decision, rightly or wrongly, has caused controversy and has maintained suspicious about the control of information in the newsrooms of the media. François Hollande is committed to restoring this power to the conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) – higher audiovisual council- that oversees radio and television in France.

To do this, the CSA will be reformed in order to gain greater independence. In the past, its members were appointed by the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate, and the President of the National Assembly. Aurélie Filippetti wants the cultural committees of the Assembly and the Senate to handle the appointment of future members.

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