Only eight of the twelve candidates for the presidential election will take part this Monday, March 14 at 8:20 p.m. in a major political evening entitled “France facing war” organized by TF1. Outgoing President Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche), Anne Hidalgo (Socialist Party), Yannick Jadot (Europe Écologie-Les Verts), Marine Le Pen (National Rally), Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France insoumise), Valérie Pécresse ( The Republicans), Fabien Roussel (Communist Party) and Éric Zemmour (Reconquest) will be questioned in turn, without debating between them, on the conflict in Ukraine and its consequences for France.
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During presidential elections, airtime is controlled by the Audiovisual Communication Regulatory Authority (Arcom) in order to guarantee political pluralism. This independent authority, which replaces the CSA, is responsible for ensuring that candidates are treated first fairly, then according to the principle of “reinforced fairness” and finally in a completely egalitarian manner in the final stretch of the countryside.
► What is the principle of equity?
Since January 1 and until March 27, it is the “principle of equity” that applies. The authority requires television and radio stations to treat “all declared or presumed candidates fairly according to political weight”.
This notion of “political weight” takes into account different criteria: incumbent candidate, involvement in the electoral campaign, presence on social networks or results in polls. Clearly, the more weight the candidate has and the more elected members his party has, the more air time he will be able to get.
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“Airtime includes speaking time”, specifies in this respect Arcom, which explains that the latter aggregates both the statements of the candidate (or presumed candidate) and the statements of support transmitted by the broadcasters.
► What is the difference between equity and enhanced equity?
Since March 8 and until March 27, Arcom imposes “reinforced equity”. The principle is almost similar except that the “small candidates” can no longer be confined to times that suit the media (at night for example). All must have comparable programming conditions.
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Thus, if Marine Le Pen (RN) is invited to speak at 8 p.m., the labor struggle candidate Nathalie Arthaud will also have to be broadcast in “prime time”.
► After March 27, the return to the principle of equality
After March 27, two weeks before the first round, Arcom this time asks for respect for equal speaking time between the candidates. At that time, all must have strictly the same media exposure until Friday, April 8, when the campaign ends for the first round.
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Furthermore, opinion polls cannot be “commented on, broadcast or published” the day before each ballot and on the day of it. This is referred to as the “reserve period”.
► What sanctions in case of non-compliance with these rules?
When one of these rules is not respected, Arcom can be seized by an individual or a political figure. The authority is then competent to initiate a procedure with the channel. If it finds a breach, it can send a reminder letter, a warning letter or, in the most serious cases, a formal notice. This then has warning value and forces the channel to get back to the rule. If this is not the case, sanctions can be taken. These may, for example, go as far as the temporary “suspension” of the program concerned.