The writing of Release has been buzzing since Thursday’s surprise announcement: Altice, the group of media giant Patrick Drahi (The Express, BFMTV, RMC…) and telecoms (SFR…) separated from the newspaper created by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July by transferring it to a non-profit company, while paying off its debts (from 45 to 50 million euros).
“This new structure guarantees Liberation its complete editorial, economic and financial independence”, specifies the email sent to the 250 employees. This project, which will be presented to the employee representative bodies and will trigger the opening of the transfer clause, is coupled with a commitment to maintain and guarantee the “Current editorial rights” and provide it “The means necessary to finance its future operation” for “Thus guarantee its independence in the long term”, specifies the document.
Perfume of independence, poison of the unknown
Concretely, Altice France will create a “Endowment fund for an independent press”, which will acquire, via a subsidiary (Presse Indépendante SAS) the newspaper, its management and its technology development company. This device is inspired by that adopted by the online media Mediapart in 2019, based on the model of “Scott Trust”, which has protected the British daily newspaper since 1936 The Guardian. The latter has chosen not to charge for its articles while successfully inviting its readers from all over the world to participate in its funding.
Altice Média thus withdrew, not without assuming its financial responsibilities, from the management of a daily newspaper, in the midst of the press distribution crisis. For writing Release, this announcement has the sweet scent of editorial independence and the poison of the unknown in a difficult environment for the daily press. Daily accounts have certainly stabilized, with digital subscriptions multiplied by six over two years and distribution up 6% in 2019 (to 71,466 copies), but its situation remains fragile.
Release has neither the striking power of Guardian, 3e the most visited press site in the world, nor the financial health of Mediapart, which has 210,000 subscribers (+ 28% in four months). But, this structure, to be compared to the project to found the World and the united press companies (Charlie Hebdo, Les Jours, Médiacités…), shows that a way is possible for more independent media, provided that the public supports them, with possible tax advantages.