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BFMTV: From Drahi to Saadé, French media have a new boss. Will it change anything?




France’s leading news television station, always quite close to political power and the positions of President Macron, BFMTV, is changing proprietors. However, the move, as we shall see, will not cause any major changes in the French information picture. TV was an instrument close to the current power, and it will remain so, and it will not dare disturb the maneuverers. The change deserves to be narrated, however.

After years of Patrick Drahi’s unchallenged reign, the BFMTV news channel changes hands. The telecommunications magnate cedes control to Marseille-based shipowner Rodolphe Saadé, CEO of CMA CGM. A handover that marks a turning point in the French media landscape, with possible repercussions not only for the channel but for the entire industry.

CMA CGM is not a media company but the largest French shipping group and moves some 20 million containers a year. Not a small company, but not an absolute colossus either.

The two figures in comparison are:

On one side, Patrick Drahi is a French-Israeli entrepreneur known for his aggressive and sometimes unscrupulous management style, but he is not always successful and is sometimes restless. On the other hand, Rodolphe Saadé is a more reserved but no less ambitious businessman who climbed to the top of the logistics world with CMA CGM. He is originally from Lebabon and is one of the eight richest men in France. He has really huge experience in business, but not in communication or mass media. He is a really real-life entrepreneur, not someone for fancy investments. After buying the regional press group La Provence, the business news website La Tribune, and launching La Tribune Dimanche, he is now at the helm of one of France’s leading media groups, which he has entrusted to his wife, Véronique, to manage.

The reasons for the divestment are:

Drahi, in debt and under pressure from a corruption scandal, found in Saadé a buyer willing to shell out 1.55 billion euros for Altice Media, the holding company that controls BFMTV and RMC. Saadeé probably wants to diversify and cash in on his power on the political side.

Concerns and questions:

Saadé just these days found himself in an issue with his own newspaper La Provence, which attacked Macron’s visit to the increasingly insucure Marseille. Saadé summoned the publication’s editor and suspended him for a week.
The CSA did not sit well with his journalists, who went on strike, all on the eve of the purchase of BFMTV and TMC. Bolloré has often been attacked for being overly conservative and interventionist, but it does not look like the new owner will be any more tolerant.

In addition, the high price paid for BFM could lead to pressure to increase profits, possibly affecting the quality of journalism.

Uncertain future:

What will be Saadé’s real ambitions in the media world? Could M6, the TV channel in which he already owns a 10 percent stake, be his next target? And what role will Arthur Dreyfuss, Drahi’s longtime right-hand man, play in the new era of BFMTV? However, BFMTV has always stated that the media is prone to goveerno, and Saadé, in this case, could do no worse than journalists already do in terms of censorship.


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