France Ô will disappear from the screens this Sunday at midnight, as the government had decided two years ago. A decision that follows the low audiences of this public channel with a unique profile, both overseas television showcase and a concentrate of diversity.
Unlike France 4, a channel intended in particular for children, which benefited from a one-year reprieve in July (until summer 2021), France Ô saw its closure confirmed by the Ministry of Culture, the date fateful being just postponed from August 9 to 23. The channel is therefore living its last moments. She announced Thursday special programming for her last day on the air. The CSA endorsed the closure and from September 1, the TNT frequency assigned to France Ô will be recycled to broadcast franceinfo in high definition in metropolitan France.
It will therefore be the end of a 15-year adventure, or even 22 if we include its predecessor: France Ô was launched in 2005, replacing RFO Sat, born in 1998. Initially confined to cable and satellite , it must wait until 2010 to gain access to DTT on a national scale, a guarantee of greater notoriety. Alas, the channel has always struggled to find its audience. Its specifications, which give it the dual mission of promoting cultural diversity and being a television showcase for overseas territories in metropolitan France, is often considered confused and the channel regularly finds itself in the hot seat because of its low audiences: 0.8% in 2016 then 0.6% in 2017.
“Intimate but assiduous public”
Despite everything, the fifty or so employees of the channel (who will be reclassified within France Télévisions) received support: more than 100,000 viewers, elected officials, artists, etc., signed the petition. “Save France Ô”. The collective behind this movement calls for a demonstration on Sunday afternoon in front of the Ministry of Culture. And for the past two years, overseas parliamentarians, whether in the majority or in the opposition, have continued to recall his unique role within the PAF.
“France Ô had an intimate but assiduous audience, there was this showcase to the Overseas, and this opportunity to enhance television newspapers and documentaries,” produced in these territories thanks to which “The sun never sets over France”, told AFP Olivier Serva, LREM deputy from Guadeloupe, who chairs the overseas delegation of the National Assembly. And to recall that President Emmanuel Macron, before his election, had undertaken to maintain France Ô.
“For the moment we do not believe it”
“It is clear that outside of France Ô, the visibility of overseas territories on the entire audiovisual landscape is at best marginal, at worst non-existent”, also pleaded in a report Maurice Antiste, socialist senator from Martinique, and Jocelyne Guidez, centrist senator from Essonne. The government sought to ward off these criticisms by asking France Télévisions to beef up overseas content on its other channels. A new digital platform, called “Outremer the 1st”, was also launched in June. All of this is part of a “Visibility pact” signed a year ago by France Télévisions, which aims to “Sustainably guarantee the presence of overseas territories at the center of the public audiovisual supply”, with quantified objectives set in stone.
For Olivier Serva, the account is not there. “It sounds like a smart and interesting idea but in practice it doesn’t work”, and “For the moment we don’t believe it”. On the contrary, France Télévisions ensures that this strategy is already producing undeniable results. “What is important for us is that the overseas territories are much more present than they were, and this, we can already measure: we started from 1.4 million people per week in contact with programs dedicated to Overseas France Ô, to 7.2 million over the last season (September 2019 / June 2020) ” across all channels, thanks to the mobilization of all the group’s branches, it is argued in the public company. There remains the date chosen by the government to cut the signal from the channel, which struck some Ultramarins: it falls in the middle of the international day of remembrance of the slave trade and its abolition.