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France crusades against Facebook and Twitter – but no sign of Google

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
7 June 2011

In a typically Gallic move, the French authorities this week have announced new regulations to outlaw the mentioning of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as part of TV broadcasts – unless they are integral to the story, reports the Guardian.

TV and Radio presenters will no longer be allowed to finish reports or TV shows with “… and follow us on Facebook for all the latest news” (or the like) – due apparently to the practise showing unfair bias to Facebook and Twitter over the smaller, “struggling” social networks.

Aside from the obvious (and slightly sarcastic) question “WHAT other social networks?”, the move raises an interesting issue for me – what about Google, and it’s video-sharing site YouTube? Neither appear to have been covered by this latest ruling, but if French TV is anything like UK TV, they will both be getting mentioned on a regular basis – though admittedly in slightly different contexts.

Will presenters be able to refer to “Googling” a story on the internet, or “YouTube sensations” like Susan Boyle? Both Google and YouTube have struggling competitors too, but neither seem to have captured the media’s attention as much as the social networks lately, so perhaps the French authorities have simply forgotten about them?

A quote from Christine Kelly of the CSA gives an insight in to why this might be:

“We encourage the use of social networks … CSA members spend hours on them. Perhaps one day Facebook will become a generic term, but for the moment it is a commercial enterprise – a leading one, certainly, but not the only one.”

So perhaps Google is now a “generic term”, but Facebook isn’t?

As somebody whose current hobby is spotting “Follow us on Facebook!” banners in unexpected places, I’m really interested in how people are publicising their presences offline, so this move by the French has certainly piqued my interest.

The BBC, who have traditionally been very strict on “advertising” sneaking in to their shows, don’t seem to have a problem with Facebook or Twitter – listening to shows on Radio 1, 2, 4 or 5 you’ll be lucky if you don’t hear a mention of “Tweet me at…” at least once during a show. Will the BBC eventually follow-suit with the French? Hopefully not, but only time will tell…

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