Fake news, control of billionaires, technological revolutions, distrust of journalists: the States General of Information are launched Tuesday, October 3 in the morning, to try to set “rules of the game” in a media universe in full upheaval. The organization of this vast project will be clarified by the independent steering committee of the Estates General, during a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in Paris.
These Estates General were a campaign promise from Emmanuel Macron in 2022. Long awaited, their holding was announced by the Élysée in mid-July. “The goal is to arrive at an action plan” to “guarantee the right to information in the digital age”, explains to AFP Christophe Deloire, general delegate of this committee chaired by Bruno Lasserre (from Cada, Commission for Access to Administrative Documents). This could involve “legislative, fiscal, budgetary” measures, with perhaps a modification of the 1986 law which governs the audiovisual sector.
But the States General should also result in “recommendations” to the media sector, according to Christophe Deloire, also secretary general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Organized by working groups, the Estates General will begin with “a diagnosis phase until the end of the year”, before “the proposals”. They will end “in May-June” 2024. “The scope is very broad: from the quality of information to the financing of journalism to social networks and artificial intelligence, including many other things », notes Christophe Deloire.
According to him, the scale of this scope “can be a factor of complexity but also an immense advantage”, because “the upheavals in the information space are such that we will not resolve them piece by piece”. “The States General are launched to have a global view” and “to set common rules of the game, because this information space is a common good,” he argues.
Among the themes covered, the quality of information will hold a central place, at a time when social networks are reshuffling the cards among young people. According to the Kantar-La Croix barometer published in January, these platforms are the second source of information for French people aged 18 to 24, behind television news. With the risks of disinformation that go hand in hand.
Another major subject is the concentration of many French media in the hands of large private groups and a few billionaires. This was the subject of a senatorial commission of inquiry in 2022. Beyond the economic implications, this concentration raises the burning question of independence: how to guarantee that media owners do not influence their editorial line ?
The question resurfaced this summer with the strike at JDD (Journal du Dimanche), whose editorial team opposed in vain the arrival as director of journalist Geoffroy Lejeune. Many saw the hand of ultra-conservative billionaire Vincent Bolloré, whose Vivendi group is on the verge of swallowing Lagardère, owner of JDD. Lagardère defended himself. “It would be an error to think that the Estates General is a response to Bolloré, it is much broader,” assures Christophe Deloire. After the crisis at the JDD, several parliamentarians proposed making public media aid conditional on editorial independence mechanisms.
Also on the menu, the protection of journalists’ sources. This topical theme was propelled to the forefront by the recent detention of journalist Ariane Lavrilleux, after an investigation into a French army mission in Egypt. This outraged the profession and rallies are planned for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Marseille or Strasbourg. One of the difficulties of the Estates General is to avoid making it a corporatist event, which would only interest journalists. “We want to start from citizens, by going to talk to them where they are,” hopes Christophe Deloire. A difficult task, especially since the loss of confidence in the media has been a fundamental trend in recent years.