24 Jan 2009

President pledges to help struggling French press

8:12 am on 24 January 2009

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France pledged on Friday to double state spending on newspaper adverts as part of a 600 milllion euro ($US777 million) package of measures to help the print media industry.

French newspapers face financial problems as advertising revenues fall and readers leave in favour of Internet sites and free dailies. They are also hampered with an antiquated distribution system.

Other measures include a one-year moratorium on a planned increase in postal charges for newspapers.

Mr Sarkozy told newspaper publishers that a "powerful press, aimed at a mass public" was vital for democracy.

But he said, they had to try to save themselves, by looking at their content, editorial innovation and how to find a younger readership.

French people now read fewer daily newspapers than their neighbours, coming 20th in a European ranking with an average of 155 copies sold per 1,000 inhabitants.

National dailies from Liberation to Le Figaro and Le Monde have been forced to make cuts under the added pressure of the economic crisis.

Mr Sarkozy also promised a free press subscription for 18 year-olds, paid partly by the government and partly by the publishers.