While the main candidates for the 2024 European elections have launched their campaigns in recent weeks, Monday April 15 marks the start of counting their speaking time and that of their support in the audiovisual media between now and the holding of the election on June 9.

As in every election, it is the Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communication (Arcom) which is responsible for controlling this sharing of speaking time on the air, in the name of guaranteeing political pluralism.

Under the rules enacted in 2011, supplemented with each new electoral deadline, Arcom notably recommended the application of a principle of fairness rather than equality of speaking time between each formation, for eight weeks. Which media are affected? What does this principle of fairness that they must respect refer to? What new rules come into effect for this election? Here’s what you need to know.

• Seventeen TV channels and ten radio stations affected

Arcom, which ensures “the fair representation” of political currents in the audiovisual media, made public its rules for the European elections of June 9, in a recommendation issued on March 6. It stipulates that “all publishers of television and radio services must respect [them]”, “whatever their mode of broadcast”, “with the exception of Arte and parliamentary channels”, for all programs which are broadcast on their airwaves and not just newspapers and news magazines.

A total of seventeen television channels are affected by this recommendation: TF1, France 2, France 3 (for its national program), France 5, Franceinfo, Canal (for its free-to-air programs), M6, BFM-TV , CNews, LCI, C8, TMC, RMC Découverte, RMC Story, France 24, TV5 Monde (for programs specific to its French section) and Euronews. On the radio side, these rules on the distribution of speaking time will apply to ten stations: France Inter, Franceinfo, France Culture, RTL, Europe 1, RMC, BFM Business, Radio Classique, Sud Radio and RFI.

In practice, channels and stations are responsible for measuring themselves the speaking times of “candidates, political parties and groups and their support noted in their programs”, before sending their statements to Arcom, which publishes them on its site and follows up.

For the 2024 European elections, six “reporting and transmission dates” periods have been set by the audiovisual police during the eight weeks during which the counting will be held, “until the Friday inclusive preceding polling day”, after which opens the traditional reserve period. “The [speaking] times are accumulated over the entire period concerned on each transmission date,” he specifies.

• Principle of equity, which leaves “a little room for maneuver”

Arcom has chosen to once again apply a principle of fair speaking time for the European elections of June 9 due to the type of ballot, which multiplies the potential speakers due to the large number of lists (thirty-four declared in 2019), and candidates, since each must have eighty-one. In fact, this principle of fairness allows the editors of the various branches concerned to have “a little room for maneuver”, estimated Anne Grand d’Esnon, the advisor in charge of pluralism issues at Arcom, in front of the press. on March 7.

To gauge compliance with the principle of fairness on the different antennas, Arcom takes several elements into account. The first is “the representativeness of the lists of candidates, [of] the parties and [of] the political groups which present them as well as [of] their support”. This “political weight” of the parties which present a list is measured in particular according to the results they obtained during the 2019 European elections and recent national elections, as well as polling indications. The regulator “also takes into account the [variable] contribution of each of the lists of candidates and their support to the animation of the electoral debate”, namely their organization of public meetings, trips and field visits, or even of their activity on social networks.

Unlike presidential campaign periods, where a principle of reinforced fairness then a principle of strict equality apply successively in the home stretch, the media concerned therefore do not need to count down to the second the speaking time of each of the candidates and their support on their antenna.

Anne Grand d’Esnon also specified, on March 7, that if personalities refuse to go to an antenna, the latter will only have to “provide proof of an explicit refusal” to be “relieved of his obligation” – without anything preventing him from reporting on their campaign news through reports, for example.

To ensure that the rules are respected throughout the period, Arcom can, as usual during electoral periods, “send timely warnings or even formal notices [to channels and stations] when it appears that the principle of equity cannot be respected over the entire period, due to the imbalances already noted.”

• Recommendations made to platforms for the first time

Two new features should be noted concerning the rules laid down by Arcom for this 2024 European election. The first is the extension of the period for supervising the distribution of speaking time, from six weeks in 2019 to eight weeks this year, decided since “the electoral campaign has already, in fact, begun,” explained Roch-Olivier Maistre, the president of Arcom, to the press on March 7.

Furthermore, for the first time since Arcom was created in 2022 – by the merger between the Superior Audiovisual Council and the High Authority for the Dissemination of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi) – the The authority has also adopted recommendations aimed at online platforms in order to “fight against the manipulation of information”, in application of the law of December 22, 2018 which bore this title, as well as “in conjunction with the European Commission draft guidelines”. This concerns digital giants like Facebook, X and Google, now subject to reinforced obligations to control their content at European level by the Digital Services Act.

Arcom recommends, among other things, that they “reinforce their transparency” in their moderation of content, highlight “official information on the electoral process” or even allow their users “the identification of political advertisements”. These platforms will also be affected by the electoral reserve period, which will run from Saturday June 8 at 12 a.m. to Sunday June 9 at 8 p.m., when the results will be announced.