Concentration of the media: In front of the senators, Vincent Bolloré affirms “never to do politics”

“I assume and I don’t shirk”. Auditioned at the Senate on Wednesday, Vincent Bolloré tried to shed his image as an actor in the shadow of the presidential. But, in front of senators worried about his growing influence in the media, he never stopped minimizing the extent of Vivendi in the face of “foreign” giants, while dodging questions about his political role.

To hear the Breton businessman, the senators questioned for two hours an “adviser”, a “scapegoat”, whose “expiry period is coming to an end”, as February 17 approaches, the day of the bicentenary of the family group, and above all the date to which he intends to pass the orders to his children.

A revealing slip?

Leading shareholder of Canal+, two large publishing groups (Editis and Hachette), numerous newspapers (magazines of Prisma Media, JDD, Paris Match), one of the heavyweights of advertising/communication (Havas) and Europe 1 radio, Vincent Bolloré, 17 years old, is the figure that best illustrates the influence of a media empire, his hearing was in this respect highly anticipated.

Faced with questions about the place granted on his CNews channel to Eric Zemmour despite his multiple convictions for incitement to hatred, he claimed to “never do politics”, recalling that the presidential candidate had previously intervened on competing channels and newspapers and posing as a defender of “freedom of expression”. “No one knew he was going to be President of the Republic,” he added in an obvious slip, claiming to have had lunch “only once” with the polemicist to recruit him.

On the merits, Vincent Bolloré explained that the French media giant Vivendi, which it controls, is in reality “very small” in the face of the “real danger” of foreign competition from Internet giants, the 17Gafam. But its growth is possible, with the aim of promoting French culture abroad, he explained. “The media is the second most profitable economic sector today in the world, after luxury. (…) Our interest is neither political nor ideological: it is a purely economic interest”.

The dangers of Gafam on French culture

Very comfortable, he sometimes got tense, for example tackling the planned evolution of the media chronology which opens the way financing of French creations by SVoD platforms (Amazon, Apple, Disney or Netflix) in return for faster access to these creations. The Gafam “what interests them is possibly gaining a foothold in France and standardizing the same film around the world, so there is little chance that it will be French culture that will come out of it”. “If it is your choice to open the door to the Gafam to destroy Canal, you do what you want and then Canal will manage, adapt”.

D he other press and audiovisual magnates will appear in the coming days before this commission of inquiry, which is due to report in March on the economic and democratic consequences of such a concentration. The hearings of Bernard Arnault, Patrick Drahi and Martin Bouygues are notably planned.