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The Parliamentary Television Channel (LCP- Assemblée Nationale and Public Sénat)
I. – ESTABLISHED BY LAW
The Parliamentary Channel was set up by the Law of December 30, 1999 and was born out of a long-standing and deep desire on the part of the National Assembly and the Senate to contribute to the development of the presentation of parliamentary proceedings on television. The Parliamentary Channel began broadcasting in spring 2000, taking the place of a programme which had been retransmitting ‘raw’ parliamentary debates since 1993.
According to the terms of the law, the Parliamentary Channel “fulfils a public service mission aiming at informing and increasing the knowledge of citizens in the sphere of public life, by means of parliamentary, educational and civic programmes”.
II. – ONE FREQUENCY FOR TWO CHANNELS
The law provides that the frequency given over to the broadcasting of the Parliamentary Channel must include, in equal airtime, the programmes made by two companies: La Chaîne Parlementaire-Assemblée Nationale and Public Sénat. Thus, in fact, there are really two parliamentary channels.
These two channels are linked to the National Assembly for one and to the Senate for the other, by a covenant which provides, in particular, for the grants by which they are funded. They are companies in private law whose capital is entirely in the hands of the assembly to which they are linked.
The law grants these two companies a status which gives them an editorial independence guaranteed by their chairmen (appointed for three years by the Bureaux of the assemblies upon a proposal of their President) and their boards of directors (which are made up, in particular, of representatives of each political group in Parliament).
In accordance with the constitutional principle of the separation of powers, these two companies do not come under the authority of the regulatory body for broadcasting (The High Council for Audiovisual Matters). Similarly, although they receive public funding, they do not come under the jurisdiction of the Court of Accounts, on account of the principle of autonomy (and in particular financial autonomy) of the assemblies. Thus the companies are under the authority of the Bureau of each of the assemblies and these are the bodies which monitor that the regulations which apply to thematic television channels and to the respect of the impartiality of programming are maintained. During election campaigns the Bureau of the National Assembly applies the same rules concerning broadcasting time to LCP-AN as the High Council for Audiovisual Matters sets for channels which fall within its remit.
III. – A VARIETY OF PROGRAMMES
The Parliamentary Channel has been available since March 31, 2005 by Hertzian reception on the free digital terrestrial television multi-channel package (channel 13). It is also broadcast on the entire cable and satellite network, and is available on broadband connections on account of a provision of the law which obliges all television and internet providers to offer these channels free of charge to all subscribers. Its programming which is divided between LCP-AN and Public Sénat is broadcast 24/24 hours, seven days a week.
Each of the two channels also broadcasts its own programming via its internet site (www.lcpan.fr for LCP-AN and www.publicsenat.fr for Public Sénat). These two sets of programmes are available on separate channels by means of the main multi-channel television packages on broadband.
In addition to their technical and administrative structure which is similar to any television company, LCP-Assemblée nationale and Public Sénat both have editorial teams of around fifteen journalists and have had technical facilities (studio, control room etc.) in the National Assembly and the Senate for several years now.
The programmes of the two channels are broadcast in alternation within the daily programme scheduling of the Parliamentary Channel. Each company makes its programming choices entirely independently of both the other company and the assembly with which it is linked. The channels do broadcast parliamentary committee or plenary sitting debates either live or at a later time, but the majority of their broadcasts are studio panel shows or report-type magazine programmes, as well as general news bulletins.
In addition, the law prohibits the broadcasting of advertising or tele-shopping programmes.