A merger between Arcep and the CSA again on the table

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The merger of the telecom regulator and the Higher Audiovisual Council should be raised Friday by the Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, in a meeting with Edouard Philippe.

By Sandrine Cassini Posted today at 18h33

Time to Reading 2 min.

Franck Riester, the Minister of Culture, at the Elysee, July 24.
Franck Riester, the Minister of Culture, at the Elysee, July 24. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

It is a sea serpent that each government is trying to bring back. Should we merge the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA) and the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Arcep)? Franck Riester seems to think so. According to our information, the Minister of Culture should raise this issue Friday, July 26 during an appointment with Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe. At the heart of the discussion: the last arbitrations of the audiovisual law, which must be presented at the latest in October.

For months, Franck Riester has been arguing for this rapprochement, as revealed by the Sunday newspaper in March, but it was thought this option was set aside. The Prime Minister had cooled the impulses, favoring "cooperation" more than a merger of the two institutions, in a speech of June 19.

But Franck Riester could come back to the charge. Three official reasons are put forward to justify this movement, explains a source close to the discussions. First, it would provide the CSA with additional skills, while the institution sees its prerogatives strengthened. It is primarily involved in the law against false information adopted in late 2018, and will also be associated with the Avia law, on hate speech, currently under consideration in parliament.

Read also Assembly concludes consideration of proposed anti-hate law online

A super regulator of digital platforms

A rapprochement would also better manage the bickering between telecom operators and television channels. For a year, after a long arm wrestling, TF1 and M6 have managed to obtain a payment for the dissemination of their services, inspiring their competitors. Disagree, Free and BFM try to settle their dispute in front of the CSA.

Finally, the two institutions would serve as a basis for the creation of a super regulator of digital platforms (Google, Facebook etc.). More informally, it would be above all for Franck Riester to put his name on a major reform.

A favorable time for such a move, Secretary of State Cédric O would have changed his mind. When asked, his cabinet does not comment, and refers to the Ministry of Culture. Reason for this flip-flop, regulate the digital giants is a complex subject, still insufficiently mature. So not sure, that bringing together two institutions for traditional activities is the right option.

In front of the Association of Media Journalists (AJM), on July 10, the chairman of the CSA, Roch-Olivier Maistre had also said "reserved". "The administrative cost would be heavy. And we can see that the convergence (media-telecoms) of companies, like BT or Altice is not so strong as that "he had warned. It is true that to bring together two opposite authorities, with engineers on the one hand, and "cultureux" on the other, would be anything but easy.

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