Sunday, February 13, 2005

Une Ligne Dans Le Sable

That’s French for ‘a line in the sand’; and France has drawn another one of those. The people who run the Conseil superieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA) have decided enough is enough. In case you are wondering, The Superior Council of Audio Visual stuff is like the Federal Communications Commission in the US. They worry about broadcast content and the use of the airwaves. In the US, the FCC gets very agitated by the exposure of female breasts, slang synonyms for copulation, and the uncontrolled transmission of porno movies. Frenchmen do not understand this. In France, the CSA gets very agitated by the use of English in the titles of popular shows. Americans don’t understand this. No wonder there is a rift between these two former allies.

A particular target of the CSA is a popular TV reality show known as ‘Loft Story’. The premise of the programme would make the FCC incandescent. A group of male and female 20-somethings are locked in a loft apartment and photographed 24/7 by 26 cameras. Needless to say they don’t spend their time reading Camus and debating which soufflé to have for dessert. They do what any normal group of 20-somethings would do; they take wardrobe malfunctioning to new heights. However, the transmission of Jean Paul and Claudette having a go in the swimming pool like two sex-crazed octopi on Ecstasy is not the issue. Non! Apparently the problem is the exposure of the English title to the people of France. One suggestion for a more appropriate title for the show is "Une histoire de local a usage commercial ou industriel amenage en local d'habitation". The CSA clearly has something to learn about Showbiz.

The difference in the attitudes of the FCC and CSA is understandable. The former doesn’t have much of a challenge in supporting English. In the marketplace of ideas, English has just about the biggest storefront in the mall. Thanks to Hollywood, the Internet, and the number of counterfeit $50 bills in circulation, just about everyone is exposed to English. Even Al Jazeera is going English! (Apparently, ‘Infidel Crusader Dog’ is the equivalent of ‘See Spot Run’ in the language training video.)

But for the CSA, the challenge is real. In the marketplace of ideas, French is a pushcart at the far end of the car park outside the mall. There are 28 countries that have French as their official language. France, of course. Also in Europe there is Belgium, or about half of it, Switzerland, or about a third of it, and Monaco and Luxembourg. 18 of the Francophone countries are in Africa. In places like Mali, Rwanda, Senegal and Burundi, the real problem with the marketplace is the lack of food and water and the possibility of getting shot whilst out shopping for an idea. There is always Quebec Province in Canada, but that might not count. Frenchmen are asked to speak English there as no one can understand them when they speak French. Vanuatu keeps the French linguistic flag flying, but with the arrival of the American Survivor TV series, it’s all over but the crianting. Jacques Chirac must be terribly frustrated. Imagine if he invites the head of every country in which French is the sole official language to Paris. They will represent an average GDP that is slightly less than that of Cleveland, Ohio and an effective military force roughly the size of Guatemala’s Hindu population.

In an attempt to heal the rift that has deepened between the ancient allies, there may be an opportunity here. The CSA and the FCC can make an historic breakthrough in Franco-American diplomacy. France gets to rename all American TV programmes and America gets to watch Jean Paul and Claudette.

7 Comments:

Blogger Africanuck said...

I keep trying to imagine the people at the FCC in the metro in Paris, and being subjected to those awful Aubade posters :)

10:32 AM  
Blogger Abby Taylor said...

Another wonderful essay. Thanks.

1:24 AM  
Blogger The Cure said...

Had to comment on your Tag line about evolution. Loved it...
Sometimes I think people should read the definition of insanity more often.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

Wonderful read..or maybe, c'est magnifique!

I'll stop by again.

3:02 AM  
Blogger sapere aude said...

A very noteworthy article and an enjoyable read.

11:23 PM  
Blogger OT said...

Well said. A very enjoyable read, and a not so off the charts solution.

1:47 PM  
Blogger ~Dawn said...

This was very interesting to learn about, I love to learn about cultural differences

8:29 PM  

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