Friday, March 31, 2006

Vive La Tradition

It’s a pretty sure thing that Ernest-Antoine Seillière will not be invited to this year’s official Bastille Day festivities in Paris – unless the celebration is intended to mark the return of the guillotine. The unfortunate M Seillière committed two capital crimes in the presence of French President Jacques Chirac at a recent EU meeting. The first was to begin his presentation to representatives of all 25 EU members in English. The second was his response to Chirac’s question as to why he was not speaking French. Ernest-Antoine responded by saying, “I’m going to speak English because that is the language of business.” With that, President Chirac stomped out of the meeting. Jacques is a bit touchy about language these days.

Last year, H I reported on Chirac’s plan to launch a French language internet search engine to compete with Google. Since storming that particular barricade has had mixed results, the backup plan was to launch Chaîne d’Information Internationale (CII), an overseas Francophone news channel to compete with the BBC and CNN. As le Président said, in French of course, “France must be on the front line in the global battle of TV pictures.” (He did not explain the difference between a French and an English picture.)

Unfortunately for CII, a detailed marketing survey has shown that most of the overseas hotels, airports and cable outlets that have a demand for a French language, all-news, 24-hour channel are in Mali, Senegal, and Haiti. The survey also revealed that those three countries have a combined 37 television sets. As a result, Jean-Pierre Paoli, an executive with the new channel, has recently announced that, for about 22 hours a day, broadcasts will be in English. It looks like Jean-Pierre will get to play drop-the-soap with Ernest-Antoine in the Bastille.

Escape for these two to the US is not an option. These days no one in France can get a passport that the US will accept without waiting about 3 months for a visa. France contracted with a company called François-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare to print the new biometric passports required by US immigration laws since October 2005. Workers at the Imprimerie Nationale protested that Cardinal de Richelieu set up their printing operation in 1648. With that much tradition, the outcome of the resulting lawsuit was never in doubt: 21st Century – 0, 17th Century - 1. The $200 million dent in the travel industry as a result of the late start on the new passports was never in doubt either.

Travel to the US is off by about 30%. With about 300,000 Frenchmen hanging around the US embassy in Paris waiting for visas instead of hanging around Disneyworld, it’s a good bet that demand for the CII channel will be off by about 99% at the Holiday Inn in Orlando.

Sadly, H I’s interview with President Chirac was cancelled. Between the mob scene around the American Embassy, students smashing up Paris, the union demonstrations, the burning cars, and the practice riots in preparation for this year’s Bastille Day, he’s very busy. H I was, however, able to contact the lead announcer of CII’s English language service, Louis-Auguste d’Agincourt. He is optimistic about the plans for CII and its ability to compete with the BBC and CNN in English. “We are goingue ovair les scripts of zee old Panque Panthair cinémas for to attract zee haudience,” he said. “Eef Petair Sellairs can take on zee Anglish, d’Agincourt can do eet as well!”


Anonymous dv said...

Tres bien fait!

Now that the Irish and the Poles have become serious nations. Where would be be without the French to stand in the essential role of world comic?

1:11 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

hey, wouldn't the quebecquois want an all french all the time news channel? That should take the total number of sets up to 137, at least.


1:01 PM  

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