08 June, 2017
Sanctions: French CSA imposes a new type of sanction on TV channel C8
On 7 June 2017, the French CSA (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel) imposed two sanctions on the TV channel "C8" owing to two sequences broadcast during the programme "Touche pas à mon poste". The two sanctions consist of the banning of any advertising spots during the programme and also 15 minutes before and after its broadcast. This sanction, which is imposed for the first time by the French regulator, will be applicable to the live broadcasts of the programme but also to its rebroadcastings for a total duration of three weeks in June.
The first sanction relates to a footage broadcast on 3 November 2016 during which images filmed with a hidden camera were showing a presenter as a victim of a set-up organized by the host and producer of the programme Mr. Hanouna. During this scene, the presenter who had been shown witnessing a (fake) deadly attack committed by the host of the show, was summoned to accuse himself of the crime and appeared to be informed of the manipulation only on the following day, thus putting him in a situation of distress and vulnerability throughout the duration of the whole programme. The CSA considered that by broadcasting this excerpt, the channel C8 seriously violated its obligation not to broadcast images which could potentially humiliate a person. Subsequently, a first sanction of one week ban on broadcasting advertising spots was imposed on the broadcaster.
The second sanction was imposed because of a footage broadcast on 7 December 2016 during which the host of the programme made a columnist, who had her eyes closed, put her hand on his genitals. The CSA considered that this scene was infringing the provisions of the Law of 30 September 1986 aiming to combat stereotypes, sexist prejudices, degrading images and violence against women, particularly in programmes with an important impact on the young audience. As a result, a further two-week ban of broadcasting advertising spots was imposed on channel C8.
The present sanctions are the consequence of two procedures launched more than six months ago by the CSA. The first one for "violation of human dignity" and the second one for "degrading the image of women". These sanctions are considered as a "first" because the ban to broadcast advertising spots following a violation of the rules of compliance is a sanction that the CSA has never used before. The sanction comes after a series of warnings and notices against the broadcaster which remained unanswered.
In addition, a third sanction procedure is currently underway for another sequence of the programme "Touche pas à mon poste" broadcast on 18 May, which was deemed homophobic and which resulted in a record number of complaints sent to the CSA. The broadcaster has the possibility to appeal the CSA decision before the highest administrative court in France - the “Conseil d'Etat”.
The issue of the range of sanctions available to regulators has been examined by EPRA, notably on the occasion of two plenary sessions on sanctions and their enforcement which took place in 2010 and 2016 in Barcelona. A comparative background document was produced in 2010 based on the responses of 34 regulatory authorities from 31 countries (including the French CSA). The document highlights that as a rule, regulators may apply sanctions graded in severity to reflect the seriousness of the failure. They usually range from issuing a compliance notice, a warning notice, imposing a fine, demanding to broadcast an announcement, suspend a broadcast, impose a reduction in the licensing period, suspend or revoke the licences. Some of these tools are used more frequently than others, depending on the individual circumstances and severity of the issue. The temporary suspension or the revocation of licences is rarely used, only in exceptionally severe cases.
Other types of (less widespread) sanctions have also been mentioned by regulatory authorities in the survey. The suspension of one or more advertising spots (for a maximum duration of one month) appears to be a French particularity which does not exist in the other jurisdictions which replied to the questionnaire.
Source: Website of the CSA/EPRA Secretariat