Let us hail the event properly, and let us not spare our encouragements : the French international radio and TV broadcasting cluster is now coming fully into operation, with the launching of France 24, the French full-time news TV channel, and with the adoption of its employees’ charter. Eagerly awaited, this reorganization of the radio and TV cluster shall not encounter any protest against its very principle, for it was highly necessary and pressing, for the whole system was obviously obsolete, and the French influence was faltering in its strategic hinterland, especially in the Muslim-Arab world. Beyond partisan divisions, this reorganization should prove the authorities are determined to “run the flag up” anew, after an eclipse that has lasted for almost a quarter of a century.

Having helplessly witnessed the wreckage of the French media cluster, the French-speaking or Francophile operators and listeners should find here some consolation, if not any pride.

Since the USA-led wars in Afghanistan (2001) and in Iraq (2003), the USA has launched two transregional broadcasting vectors, the “Sawa radio” and the TV channel “Al-Hurra”, besides the big transborder networks CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, etc., while in November 2006 the Pan-Arabic TV channel “Al-Jazeera”, the unchallenged media leader in the Muslim-Arab world, headed towards the second step of its development, launching an English-speaking channel as compared to the six reports [1] advocating the reform of the French international radio and TV cluster, the only achievement of France in an eighteen-year period, which delivered on average a report every three years.

The French international TV channel’s financial structure is funded equally by private (French biggest TV channel TF1) and public (France Televisions) capital. The last version of the project plans a two channel link-up : one international channel in French and English, and one Arabic-speaking channel, the latter being funded by French and Moroccan capital, and broadcasting from Tanger (Morocco) by way of a connection with the French-Moroccan radio station Médi 1.

The former version of the international channel, mainly Arabic-speaking, planned a mixed funding with French and Arabic capital, notably from the Gulf. The changes in the capitalistic structure of the project seem to have been motivated by France’s decision-makers’ personal comfort, and not by strategic reasons linked to national interests.

Following the French-only “audience basins theory”, France has several international broadcasting networks, both for TV (TV5, and the French-German ARTE) and radio (RFI RMC-MO, Médi 1, Africa N°1), most of them funded together with another country (except RMC-MO). But until the creation of France 24, the country had no full-time worldwide broadcasting medium with full control over it. After a rough road during its ten-year journey, the French international radio and TV cluster presents chaotic mechanics, which include, as regards the radio part of it, a recruiting policy based on an ethnocentric outlook.

What’s more, carefulness, if not circumspection, shall be our rule here, judging by the preceding reorganization, that applied to the radio division ten years ago, in 1996, when RMC-MO (Radio Monte Carlo for Middle East, “Moyen-Orient” in French) was attached to RFI (Radio France International) and materially integrated to it by being located in the “Radio House” (“la Maison de la Radio”).

Indeed, the great French project of the beginning 21st century in the domain of international communication, though supposed to be the panacea healing the chronic illnesses of the radio and TV sector, had mainly one effect, namely it revealed the major flaws of the French way of management and confirmed the ossification of the internal decision-making systems.

And indeed, the operation that was supposed to boost France’s media reorganization finally turned out to be media and diplomatic nonsense, because of the duality of its capitalization and of the heavy control exerted by the French Presidency over the appointment of its directorate.

By way of strategic transformation, the radio division of the radio and TV cluster was merely facelifted. A mere formatting from the 1970s standards replaced the setting-up of a 21st century vector. The addition of RFI’s heavy bureaucracy to RMC-MO’s clannish sectarism can hardly be considered a reform, and can even less give a worldwide dimension to the only French radio station devoted to international broadcasting.

This restructuring was effected regardless of the media and political context in the concerned region, in the best tradition of bureaucracy and improvisation, and without any innovation ; thus it officially acknowledged the traditional compartmentalisation of the radio station, and sanctioned a state of things which has been harming the radio’s image for so long. Unless one considers it proves great smartness and dexterity, the restored hegemony of a leading group who with decried methods has been managing a radio station whose reputation is controversial hardly indicates a real will to start a revival.
In three years, two general directors, two information directors, two advertising agencies (HMI and Tihama), two executives for the general administration and human resources followed each other at the head of the Arabic-speaking department, which was reorganized only ten years ago, while the organization chart showed that, among about 30 journalists, 16 had executive functions, i.e. fifty percent of the staff, which is not only an impressive score but also an absolute world record.

Having gained some sympathy in the Muslim-Arab world thanks to its advocating international right within the case of Iraq, France decided to set up a full-time news TV channel to counterbalance the Anglo-Usamerican hegemony and to make its dissenting voice heard in the utterly deafeaning consensus ruling since the military invasion of Iraq. Though the project could have emerged sooner, the intent must be hailed. But one may fear that France will encounter accusations of duplicity, for its behaviour is double-dealing, both in the media and politics; this will hinder its diplomatic credibility and the benefits of its legitimist stand.

When France and the USA opposed each other in a global arm-wrestling round during the second war in Iraq, the striking speech by Mr Dominique de Villepin (who was the French Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time) at the UN Security Council on February 14, 2003, finally had a mere subliminal impact that weighed far less than an obviously cruel fact : Afro-Usamerican citizens held the reins of the first contemporary military power’s diplomacy, which hinted strongly at a higher social mobility.

Neglecting all doctrinal considerations and gloating grandiloquent speeches, the USA, though renowned for its social violence, has regularly appointed black and/or immigrant personalities to key positions in the state apparatus at decisive moments of the country’s history. For instance, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, and previously Ralph Bunch, the Afro-Usamerican Vice-General Secretary of the UNO in 1948, John Abizaid, a Lebanese-Usamerican General and the Chief of the Usamerican central command whose remit extends from Afghanistan to the Arab-Persian Gulf, and Zalmay Khalilzadeh, the Afghan-Usamerican proconsul in Afghanistan (2002) then in Iraq (2005).

Neither the most elaborate mental construction nor the most prestigious historical reference can face this fact, which is so valuable in the eyes of the Third-World, despite the warmongering George W. Bush’s administration, and which, as a repercussion, reveals the French pathology. In the last government of the Chirac’s era, led by the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, three ministers have been in charge of putting the equality principle into effect, via its derivations : social cohesion, equal treatment for women and men, and promotion of the equal opportunities principle for citizens both of French and immigrant origins. And yet, equality is one of the three principles on which the French Republic is grounded, and it has been considered a common good for two centuries. So it seems that secularism, which is such a unique principle in the world, has only been erected to hide the recurrent chauvinism of the French society. The consolation prizes occasionnally awarded not to the most deserving but to the most obedient people do not soften this discriminatory policy, but on the contrary they underline how harsh it is and how much it contradicts France’s universalist message. They threaten it with serious backlashes.

Opposing the USA on behalf of multilateralism and “dialogue among cultures” and advocating overtures towards the Third-World, and at the same time practicing a discriminatory policy towards its own population of immigrant extraction that hardly offers them minor positions, while Afro-Usamerican top ranking personnalities like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell head the US diplomacy, pertains at least to a culture of irresponsibility and contempt which hugely contributes to the discredit of France under President Chirac’s reign.

Indeed, the most serious risk threatening France is not being marginalized because of its diplomacy, which was supposed to build a new relationship with the Muslim-Arab world after a one-century disastrous colonialist policy, but being put aside in reaction to its erratic behaviour.

In the second war in Iraq, RFI, the main French international radio, was also the main broadcaster of Anglo-Saxon religious programmes to the Muslim-Arab world, the main relay for the Anglo-Saxon coalition’s propaganda and their main technical services provider in the region, a triple record that is hard to equalize.

RFI was also granted Usamerican funds amounting to 2.2 million euros per year, as a counterpart for the services it provided Usamerican vectors, notably Trans World Radio (961,971.33 euros) and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG, the authority supervising the Usamerican vectors) (1,249,961.04 euros). This amount equates half the subsidies RFI was granted by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs [2]. Given the stakes, the Usamerican financial contribution was to prove alienating for a radio station pertaining to France’s sovereignty, as well as – if not more - for France itself, the apologist for a multipolar world here confined to a mere parroting role.

This French-Usamerican agreement for cooperation is diplomatic nonsense. It distorts the very essence of the French radio, transforming it into the main loudspeaker for the Anglo-Saxon religious proselytism towards the Muslim-Arab world at a crucial moment in the history of the Western-Arab relationship, at the height of the offensive led by the US Republican administration’s neocon preachers against the Muslim-Arab world, denying and dismissing the principles of secularism and state neutrality. This offensive became a very concrete fact with the wars in Afghanistan (2001) and in Iraq (2003) as well as with the definition of an Axis of Evil hinged on two Muslim countries, Iran and Syria.

Giving the Anglo-Saxon preachers free speech on the French waves and providing VOA (Voice of America) with technical support tend to substantiate the idea that the French broadcaster serves as a Trojan horse for the Usamerican policy in the region. Notwithstanding the detrimental consequences of such a policy, the leadership of the international radio cluster (mainly RFI / RMC-MO) boasted publicly for having aired in exclusive coverage an interview with Mr Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. This illustrates their tragic ignorance of the reality in the region. Namely, London’s choice to have its political message transmitted to Iraq, its former private domain robbed by France when the monarchy collapsed in 1958, not via the BBC’s prestigious Arabic-speaking department but via a French relay, as well as the Usamericans’ choice to have their religious preaching broadcast by a French operator, seem mainly aimed at staining their French partner-adversary with complicity and duplicity. So much naivety, not to say vanity, leaves one all the more speechless that, as an immediate aftermath of the successful Anglo-Usamerican invasion, France was ousted from Iraq, the country where the French post–1950s diplomacy (initiated by the General and President Charles de Gaulle, and continued by all his followers at the Presidency) had achieved its major breakthrough.

On the background of an Anglo-Usamerican offensive against the Muslim-Arab world, while the British and Usamerican media have achieved their geostrategic reorganization in the region, France persists in its backward-looking and xenophobic stand in the communication field, especially as regards the radio and TV media. Since the French-speaking countries Summit in Beirut (Lebanon) on October 19, 2002, the radio’s leadership put about 20 staff members on the sidelines in two different shake-ups, first on October 29, 2002, then in February-March 2003 ; most of them belong to the Muslim faith, and the process clearly contradicts the “dialogue among civilizations” advocated by President Chirac at the Summit in Beirut.

The first shake-up took place on October 29, 2002, one week after the French-speaking countries Summit ; it deprived France’s main Arabic-speaking vector of the collaboration of some authors among the most prestigious in the Arab world, and at the same time it harmed the station’s credibility. Amidst the Arab intellectuals ousted from the Arabic-speaking waves were notably Mrs Nawal Saadawi, an Egyptian author renowned for her struggle for promoting the rights of women, and the Palestinian poet Mr Samir Al-Qassem, precisely those who will be later asked to appeal on RMC-MO’s waves for the release of Mrs Florence Aubenas, the French journalist taken hostage in Iraq in January 2005.

The second shake-up occurred in February 2003, while the UN Security Council was debating the case of Iraq. It achieved the editorial decapitation of the station, laying Riad Mouassas, central chief editor, his assistant (both are Syrian) and the only Iraqi staff member off. The Iraqi was fired for the deceptive reason he had described Jacques Chirac as “the chief of the Refusal Front opposing the war in Iraq”, and the chief editor for the likewise deceptive reason that he had asked his superiors for an authorization to take part in a debate on TV.

Together with this upheaval, the presence of Maronites [3] within the Arabic-speaking top executive levels was curiously reinforced, as they grabbed five executive positions out of seven, including the station director and the programmes director posts, as well as the third of the staff. Giving way to the Maronite tropism, the direction increases the Maronite clan’s hegemony within the station and pushes it into the rut of the Lebanese denomination-based political system, turning it into a clannish [4] radio. Doing so, the leadership gives full substantiation to the idea that France goes on using the minorities as mere pawns on the geostrategic chessboard in the Middle-East, and that there is no safe faith in its eyes, except the Maronite one.

For sure a leadership has full legitimacy in choosing loyal, if not devoted, collaborators, but it is equally judicious to recruit people from the criterion of competency, for an editorial staff considered reliable by its audience is more crucial for an international vector than a team devoted to its own leaders. Competency is not incompatible with loyalty, and denominational affiliation is no absolute guarantee of professional capacity and even less of Francophilia.

Having restored the power of a group who bears the responsibility for the mercenary drifting of the station and for its controversial reputation emphasizes the problem of the leadership’s lack of clearsightedness, if not of its practices tainted with connivance and nepotism. Together with archaic and brutal management methods (for instance, the staff members must apply in writing for an authorization before quitting their workplace), this anti-Islamic purge increases the virulent accusations of clannishness and sectarianism directed at the station, especially since the international radio cluster was set up in 1996.

The bunkerization of the Arabic-speaking radio cluster around a strong Maronite core could explain why the station failed in its attempt to set foot in Beirut, despite the strong friendship between the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and the French President Jacques Chirac. This bunkerization hindered the credibility of the French diplomacy’s stand à la De Gaulle, and caused the audience rates to shrink dramatically. A 2003 poll ranks the French radio in the last positions among the big international stations, with a ridiculous score in the main areas where France is present in the Middle-East, including Lebanon, where the radio ranks 16th with a 5.5% audience rate. [5]

The direction has turned the editorial team over at the highest frequency ever in the history of the international media cluster, resulting in the firing of not less than 13 top executives (3 chief editors, 7 assistant chief editors and 3 programme editors) out of the Arabic-speaking department under the mandate of the first president of the international radio cluster. On December 6, 2004, RMC-MO’s employees’ Union addressed a statement to the regulatory authorities, accusing their directors of having practiced “an irresponsible, arbitrary and favouritist policy”, especially in conducting “biased and unfair lay-offs”.

In itself, France’s will to pass itself off as the protector of oppressed minorities is highly praiseworthy and honourable, but, in setting itself up as the exclusive sponsor of the Maronites alone, France reveals how much its ambitions in the Arab world have shrunk. Unless one considers this favouritism as a dissimulated guarantee given to this community as a compensation for Chirac having supported too much his friend Rafic Hariri, the late Muslim Sunni Prime Minister, assassinated in Beirut on February 14, 2005.

Instead of inquiring seriously into the reasons for its tribulations, instead of assuming its own responsibilities in the related decisions and their consequences, disastrous for the station as well as for France’s image in the Arab world, RFI’s leadership shifts the responsibility on to a hypothetical “fifth column” for its own failure in being granted a waveband in Beirut [6]. After the “fictitious jobs”, the top brass have invented the concept of “fictitious responsibility”.

Appointed in January 1996 at the head of the international radio cluster, Mr Jean-Paul Cluzel is an archetype of the “Juppé’s boys” [7] who massively entered the French administration’s top levels during the short period when Mr Alain Juppé, the former mayor of Bordeaux [8], was the French Prime Minister (from May 1995 to June 1997). Cluzel broke a longevity record by holding his position through the years of the “cohabitation” (when President Chirac had to work with Mr Lionel Jospin’s socialist government, TN). But in the perspective of the presidential elections of 2002, the result of which was then still uncertain, Cluzel applied for a whole bunch of posts in the media (the AFP - “Agence France Presse”, the CSA – “Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel” i.e the High Council for the TV and radio media, and TV5), obviously attempting to find himself a safe and profitable new position in the apparatus.

Such “serial applications” are not only disrespectful of the deontology, they also contribute to discredit the image of the high civil service in the eyes of the public, by substantiating the idea that this senior civil servant considers the vector he heads as a mere expedient, a mere stepping stone to reach more prestigious positions. Though such a conduct is psychologically and socially inopportune, members of the ENArchist elite [9] are frequently appointed to the leadership of the international media cluster, even if they have sometimes not the least experience within the sectors of information or even of communication in general. In the last decade, all this came close to a waltz of the well-to-do, amid the background of growing social inequalities ; it justified a posteriori the public’s discontent against the ENArchist collusion of the French elites and their political blindness, and it partially explains the electoral ruin encountered by Chirac’s administration. Also strategically inopportune, this careerist restlessness arose just as the big Anglo-Saxon and Arab competitors were conducting their post-9/11 reorganization, paying top price to recruit experienced journalists, relatively regardless of the ethnic and denominational criteria.

The BBC and the Usamerican media, as well as the prestigious transborder Arab TV channels (Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabia), turn amply to Muslim or non-Maronite Christian collaborators, without their denominational affiliation hindering their competitiveness nor their credibility, nor their loyalty to their company or to the country they chose as their homeland. Thus there is no choice but to accept that recruiting from an ethnocentric and clannish basis well seems to be a French specificity, hinting that a colonialist mentality still survives in the country.

By way of response to his tribulations as head of RFI, Cluzel was promoted president of Radio France – a response that showed more concern for an internal political fortification than for a reorganization of the international media cluster. Meanwhile, he had set another hard-to-equalize record, with three strikes in eight years as head of RFI, i.e one strike each thirty months in average [10], and nineteen days of strike in Radio France (all staff levels involved) within the first year (2004-2005) of his new mandate alone. The first strike occurred in March 1997, the very day Mr Laurent Désiré Kabila took the power in Kinshasa [11], the second one in February-March 2003, at the height of the French-Usamerican diplomatic dispute over the war in Iraq, and the third one while the French “Law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols” was being passed, and while the case of the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was internationally discussed. So these strikes shut the radio silent just as crucial events were happening.

When Cluzel left RFI [in June 2004, TN] an uproar rose up against his discriminatory practices, as well as a three-week general strike in RMC-MO, which led his protégés to resign. His follower, Mr Antoine Schwartz, did his best to break the record, encountering two strikes in a single year, to the point that, by way of excuse, the French Presidency and Minister of Foreign Affairs described him as “the wrong person for the post”. [12] [13]

The various positions available in the international media cluster are often not seen as strategic spots in a diplomatic war for cultural influence, but sometimes merely as sinecures for one’s protégés. In France, “good connections”, based on intellectual, regional or sentimental affinities, are one of the most powerful catalysts for socioprofessional success, anyway far more than competency and experience; this is the thesis convincingly supported by two journalists, Mrs Sophie Coignard and Mrs Marie-Thérèse Guichard, in a severe indictment against the French practices in the spheres of power [14]. A decree is enough to appoint a senior civil servant, but it takes quite a bit more to make a great civil servant. [15]

That a vector which should be devoted to boosting France’s cultural influence in the Arab world may be so amazingly led astray as to be grabbed by a family clan, that such a mercenary and clannish system may last three decades (sometimes serving as a political tribune for protagonists in the Lebanese conflict or for mercantile trades [16]), that such an abnormality may escape the vigilance of its regulatory authority, should be enough to explain why the French media decline.

While having ranked first among the Euro-Mediterranean countries within the media sector in the early 1970s, thirty years later and despite the undeniably positive legacy of the diplomacy à la De Gaulle, France is now well behind, even superseded by the new powers of the region, like Saudi Arabia or the small state of Qatar with its transborder TV channel “Al-Jazeera”. In the 1980s-90s, the international competition rose up to a newly significant scale, with the launching of huge transcontinental satellite-broadcast networks, as the French media cluster, very like the French political and technocratic class, sank into two decades of show and dough, protections and connections, waste and nepotism. France never recovered from these crazy times, which resulted in striking judicial scandals and the collapse of its international media cluster.

Yet, nothing predestined the TV and radio media cluster to such an ending. Nothing but this false concern about the French specificity that quickly turned into speciousness. Nothing but, also and above all, the tendency to resort to “panicky management”, as the French sociologist Mr Michel Crozier puts it [17]. More precisely, these methods pertain to a wait-and-see attitude, most of the time letting contingent solutions prevail over fundamental settlements, a timorous behaviour, waiting quietly for the situation to deteriorate rather than risking bold anticipations, often letting serenity and rationality give way to frenzy and improvisation in a catastrophist mood.

Twenty-five years behind its Usamerican predecessor, France launches its own full-time news TV channel from the CNN model, even if the Euro-Mediterranean area is already streaked with huge transborder Anglo-Saxon and Arab vectors. Twenty years after this project started, the reform of the French international media cluster is out of breath, caught between the budgetary cutbacks, the politicians’ uncertainty and their counsellors’s indecision, though all of them are committed in a frantic quest for a mythical “model channel” that would restore France’s past prestige. Worse, the reorganization of the media cluster, supposed to embody one of the greatest achievements of the Chirac era, finally led to an anachronistic system contradicting the “dialogue among cultures” that France wanted to start at the French-speaking countries’ Summit in Beirut : an Arabic-speaking department decried both for its ethnocentric and clannish structure, and for its role as a broadcaster for the Usamerican religious proselytism (via the services it provided the Usamerican Methodist Church’s “Trans World Radio”). Contrary to all expectations, the international radio cluster even turns to be a partner for the Usamerican fundamentalist groups in their struggle to spread throughout the world their western spiritualizing outlook. Thus, it contributes to enforce the Usamerican values thanks to globalization, to the detriment of France’s own interests and cultural specificity.

The collapse of RMC-MO, tragically typifying the French management methods, has been a regional blueprint for the global flop of Vivendi Universal, and thus should be taken into account as a warning by the initiators of the new French international TV channel. As the Middle-East encounters a new historical shift, France should first clear up this mess, so that the zealous advocates of such practices will not be given free way to bury the French cause. Unless France reconciles itself to being marginalized for a long time, the country must respond to the Anglo-Saxon breakthrough by revising thoroughly its TV and radio media policy, for what is at stake in this competition is no less than the new hierarchy of powers and their future balance in the region, determined by the regional reorganization within the media sector, and thus within the whole cultural domain.

Jacques Chirac’s political career is coming to an end, and the results of his leadership and actions are questionable : he clearly bears some responsibility in the wreckage of the international media cluster, for his masterminding of the project had such detrimental consequences, that they remind us, as regards their impact, of the French warfleet sinking itself in Toulon [18] in order to avoid fighting against the Nazi invaders. His landmark project of a full-time news channel is now mocked for its recurring tribulations and failures under the caustic nickname “useless and unfeasible accessory”. [19] [20]

The most senior among the European chiefs of state, the head of the French political show quits the stage, leaving behind a political and diplomatic heap of ruins. He will be remembered as an ambitious man without a cause, and leaves, by way of political legacy, the exemplification of a munificent policy built on appearances and, as a bonus for the enlightenment of future generations, the pathetic story of a “nobelizable” personality who has burnt his own legend. A symptom hinting at the cultural tragedy of contemporary France, and an unquestionable proof that a certain declamatory posture “à la française” is wholly futile.

Translated from French into English by Xavier Rabilloud, and revised by Nancy Almendras, members of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity.

[1Michel Péricard’s report in 1987, Alain Decaux’s report in 1989, Francis Balle’s report in 1995, Senator Jean Cluzel’s report in 1996, Bloch-Lainé’s audit in 1996, Imhaus’ report in 1997, Brochand’s report in 2002.

[2From the Board of Directors’ Report at the General Assembly of Shareholders for the year 2003, dated June 2004, page 4 : RFI leases RMC-MO’s mediumwaves out to Trans World Radio, the Usamerican Methodist Church’s station, within high-audience hours, to broadcast religious programmes to the Muslim-Arab world. These daily programmes, in English and Arabic, last in average 1h30 and are aired to a region including the most sacred places for the Islam faith : Mecca (Saudi Arabia), Qom (Iran), Al-Azhar (Egypt), Nadjaf and Karbala (Iraq) – i.e the region, outside of the Pakistan-Afhghanistan sector, where fundamentalism is rooted best. Since June 2002, as the probability of a military campaign in Iraq was increasing, RMC-MO went on providing Usamerican media with services, taking on the maintenance of the broadcasting equipments they needed in Cyprus.

[3Maronites are the most numerous Christian minority in Lebanon.

[4Here, “clannish” is the approximative translation for the French adjective “communautariste” which refers to a society whose organization tends to consider the affiliation to a specific community (in the usual contexts, the main criterions are religion, foreign origin, ...) as important as (or more than) for instance the affiliation to the French nation or the “European citizenship”. In this translation, the words “clannish” and “clannishness” are used to translate two different French concepts : “clanique”, “clanisme” on the one hand, “communautariste”, “communautarisme” on the other. This approximation does not distort the meaning, though. (TN, translator’s note)

[5From the Board of Directors’ Report at the General Assembly of Shareholders for the year 2003, dated June 2004, page 2 : in Jordan, RMC ranks 6th (with a mere 5% audience share, though broadcasting on FM band) and 5th in Syria (9.7% audience share). The report also mentions, in a mysteriously elliptical way, that “a quantitative study has been carried out in Qatar”, but does not show any figures (rank, audience share...). It seems the reason of such a discretion can be found in the fact that RMC was rather ranking in the last positions than at the top...

[6Jean-Paul Cluzel (CEO of RFI), interview with the Lebanese newspaper “Al-Nahar”, on October 21, 2002. Complacency or condescension ? The leadership of the international media cluster often mixed information with public relations and mercantile stakes. For instance, during the war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1989), the daily evening news were presented by a journalist who had diplomatic advantages thanks to his participation in the Iraqi mission in Paris ; at that time, it could have worsened the relationship between France and Iran. Now consider the case of the new war in Iraq (2003) : one of the station’s top executives was married with one among the closest collaborators of an oil emirate’s important ambassador in Paris, openly hostile towards Iraq, Syria and Iran ; it could have weakened the relationship of France with Syria and Iran. Those appointments were confirmed, though the staff opposed to them via votes of distrust, and in neither case did the regulatory authority question the opportunity of such proximity/complicity, especially as regards its consequences on the station’s editorial policy, and thus on France’s credibility in the region. To the point that one may wonder to what extent the aggressive hostility against Syria and Iraq during the war in 2003 had to do with the matrimonial situation of the person who initiated the purges within the station, and to what extent, in doing so, he wanted to foster his spouse’s employer’s interests in inter-Arab conflicts and rivalry.

[7In English in the original text. (TN)

[8Newly re-elected after what a decent advocate of true democracy might call a local coup. (TN)

[9Former students of the ENA, Ecole Nationale d’administration – the National School of Administration, where many (if not most) French government officials of the last decades have studied. (TN)

[10At the same time, the BBC was already prepared, three months before 9/11, having started on June 19, 2001, an “online partnership” [in English in the original paper, TN] with Dubai. Thanks to this agreement, the British channel became the exclusive news and programmes provider for public administrations and private companies operating in the free zone of the principality. Moreover, thanks to its cooperation with Nile Sat and Arabsat, the BBC became the necessary partner for the regional operators, and the leader among the transcontinental media networks in West and South Asia – a highly tense region including the main oil and islamic countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq), the highly populated nuclear states of the Third-World (India, Pakistan), as well as Turkey, Afghanistan and the Muslim countries of Central Asia.

[11Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly knowned as Zaire. (TN)

[12“erreur de casting” in French, which means quite litterally : “we chose the wrong actor for the film”. (TN)

[13Mrs Lauriane Gaud, “Du rififi à RFI” [i.e Fisticuffs in RFI, TN], in the French satiric weekly newspaper “Le Canard Enchaîné”, dated May 25, 2005. As for President Chirac, who had supported all Cluzel’s applications during the “cohabitation” with Jospin’s socialist government (1997-2000) and forced the renewal of his mandate, opposing Jospin’s candidates, he was less enthusiastic about the new president of Radio France. See Mrs Annick Peigné Guily, “Chirac de Cluzel : il est trop con celui-là – Cluzel attendu au tournant de la Maison Ronde” [i.e Chirac describes Cluzel : that guy is really too stupid – Cluzel’s action at the House of the Radio will be closely watched, TN], in the daily newspaper “Libération”, on June 3, 2004, as well as the Médiamétrie poll in “Libération” dated November 18, 2005.

[14“Les bonnes fréquentations, histoire secrète des réseaux d’influence” [i.e Good connections – a secret history of the networks of influence, TN], Grasset Ed. (1995) and LP9, Le Livre de Poche Ed. n°14.443.

[15The author paraphrases the late French Minister for Culture and writer Mr André Malraux, who once said that if nine months are enough to make a human being, it takes more than this to make a man. TN

[16As proved by the documents appended to my book “Aux origines de la tragédie arabe” [i.e The roots of the Arab tragedy, TN] - Bachari Ed., 2006.

[17Mr Michel Crozier with Mr Bruno Tilliette, “La crise de l’intelligence – essai sur l’impuissance des élites à se réformer” [i.e The intelligence in crisis – essay on the incapacity of the elites to reform themselves, TN], Inter-éditions Ed. (1995).

[18In 1942, after Marshal Pétain signed the armistice with Germany. TN

[19In French, “Complément inutile et infaisable”, twisting the original meaning of the acronym CII ; “Chaîne d’information internationale” – i.e International Information Channel. TN

[20Mr Raphaël Garrigos and Mrs Isabelle Robert, “CII, la CNN à la française en panne, un complément inutile et infaisable” [i.e CII, the project of a French CNN is at a stop – a useless and unfeasable accessory” TN], in Libération, on July 25, 2005.