Regulating the Media in the and France
A comparison of the ways that the and France intervene in their respective mass media industries has two major analytical advantages. First, the industrial sector is economically important while having a significant noneconomic, that is, cultural, impact. Second, though the two countries have very different statist traditions, they have adopted remarkably similar institutional responses. Comparing them provides a two-dimensional analysis that can be generalized, at least suggestively.
Policy content matters: Culture is a differentially salient issue. For example, the French approach emphasizes protection of the national culture in the face of international influences. The French, from this perspective, conceive of culture as nationally homogeneous. Not only do the French view their culture as deserving of emulation; it is equally true that they see it as being threatened by Anglo-Saxon, especially American, hegemony.
In contrast, cultural policy in the is politically divisive. Not only is the American polity ethnically diverse, but cultural cleavages have been politicized, essentially because of partisan politics.
The second dimension that makes this comparison interesting is the difference between state intervention aimed at regulating markets and that aimed at promoting specific industries.
In the following I provide an overview of French and American systems of media promotion and regulation and an analysis of the political implications of the similarities and differences they exhibit.
However, despite elements of convergence, neither country can escape its own history or its own institutional context. French films persist on international markets because they are subsidized and because they occupy a specific niche. Yet the very institutional mechanism that assures their persistence reduces their appeal. American products dominate not just because of their large domestic home base but also because of their home culture. It is not just the size of the domestic market but its diversity that counts. Diversity is an artifact of American history; similarly, cultural homogeneity and centralization have long defined the French state. In sum, historical and institutional contexts are important determinants of cultural policymaking; solely political cultural explanations run the risk of being tautological or static.