There are six (and a half?) national free-to-air channel
s in France. As well, television signal
s from neighbouring
countries are available in bordering regions and usually as part of cable
and satellite television
packages. France began its first regular televison broadcasts in 1935 but sets did not become widespread until well after World War II
France has a reputation for having some of the worst televsion programming in the world. This is well-deserved for a whole variety of reasons, but primary is the sheer number of advertisments they manage to squeeze into each hour - only the United States compares in this regard. Otherwise, French TV bad for the same reason television everywhere is bad - it's mostly mindless crap. The difference here though is that France does not redeem itself by having an equivalent to Australia's SBS or even the BBC. The privately-owned stations feature crass, commercial, mind-numbing crap, but relatively popular crap. Since they do not recieve adequate funds, the state-owned channels must compete with said crap for advertising revenue. The result? More crap.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about French TV is the persistent refusal to use subtitles when showing foreign-language programs. Most films shown in French cinemas are not dubbed, but for some reason foreign sitcoms and even most films on French TV are. Not only this, but the actors involved are possibly the worst in Europe. Those dubbing over sitcom characters invariably put on stupid voices in the vain hope that this will somehow make the weak translation more amusing. Alf is bad enough in English, but in French it's insufferable.
It's not all bad, however. During several programs, especailly films, ads are shown not at regular, short intervals as per usual but rather in large blocks - often there is just a large interval. The advantages of this are obvious.
Another postive is the depth to which discussions on serious programs can go. Political and philosophical concepts are debated heavily and in detail, with no thought of dumbing-down for the audience or advertisers. Unfortunately the kind of programs where this occurs do not rate exceptionally well and are rare.
TF1: The first French channel, this was originally owned by the State but was privatised in 1987. It's been all downhill since then and is indistinguishable from any other Western commercial television station. Some news, a lot of sport, trashy French and US dramas and sitcoms. Inane game shows. http://www.tf1.fr/
France 2: Overall not terrible. State-owned, it has a smaller light entertainment:interesting things ratio, with a decent news bulletin at 20:00 each evening, documentaries, current affairs programs and the usual dramas, films et cetera. The fact that France 2 is owned by the Government does not mean it's well funded - ads run just as often as on the commercial stations, and the resulting push for ratings is probably responsible for the lack of quality programming. http://www.france2.fr/
France 3: This state-owned station has more local news and current affairs and silly things like game shows and sport, and televised dances to acordion music. Sometimes interesting films (often quite old) or docos are shown. This is pretty much the old man channel - my grandfather has it on all day. Brigitte Bardot films. http://www.france3.fr/
France 5 - formerly known as La Cinquieme: This is an "educational" channel - even the game shows are educational. Really this means that although there is quite a bit of news and current affairs and some decent documentaries, many of these programs are tailored to children and therefore not very interesting. http://www.lacinquieme.fr/
Arte: This station shares a signal with France 5 - the switch takes place at around 7pm. Arte is owned jointly by the French and German governments, and all programs are broadcast in both languages. It's a shame this channel doesn't run all day, since it is the closest the French come to SBS. Quality films and documentries, the occasional Western. http://www.lasept-arte.fr/
M6: Utter trash. Little more than a clone of your average US/Australian commercial station - just with more sex and music videos. Reality TV, dubbed American sitcoms, terribly unfunny French sitcoms, excruciatingly bad game shows, "youth" programs, cartoons, music videos, tits and bums, porn films. The news is seven minutes long. http://www.m6.fr/
Canal +: This is broadcast free-to-air two hours a day, otherwise the signal is scrambled unless one owns a rather pricey decoder. Many a shitty sitcom or drama, but the occasional good film since the company often provides financing for local and international productions - mostly conventional comedies but sometimes more interesting. Also a lot of sport, especially football. http://www.cplus.fr/
Télé Monte Carlo: Films, as far as I recall. Bad ones, I saw, and I am informed by Linca that this is always the case. Not on air during the day, although the Monaco Grand Prix is shown ad-free.
RTL9: The Luxemburger French-language station. Inspector Derrick and other dubbed German cop shows. News. Sport. Dubbed US sitcoms. The odd decent film (dubbed, German).
RAI (1 and 2, possibly 3): Italian. All I remember from this is a game show called Luna Rossa (Red Moon) or something. It was bizzare to say the least. There was a lot of music and dancing, some fat men and some tall women in bikinis who exposed their breasts.
There are certainly more - Belgian, Spanish, Swiss, German, even English(?). /msg me if you know of them.
TV 5 is the French-language international channel, broadcast in various parts of Africa, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe as well as in Quebec, but not generally available free-to-air in France itself. A lot of serious news and current affairs, it seems. http://www.tv5.ca/indextv5.html
This has become more popular in recent years, but has not lived up to its promise at all and on average is worse than the free-to-air. What you get depends on what you pay for, of course, but generally there is a lot of pay-per-view, some sports channels, movie channels and the usual English-language internatonal news and entertainment channels, as well as the French ones and two music channels - MTV and MCM. If you think MTV is terrible, it is probably best that you don't go anywhere near MCM. Cable in France is quite expensive - about €25 per month for Canal+ alone.
I'd like to think that the shallow
ness of TV in France is due to the fact that the French just don't care, being enlightened and having better things to do with their time than sit on a couch, but a nation
which just gave 17% of the vote to a fascist deserves no credit
. French television is an abomination
and is likely to remain so, since the Government does not seem interested in increasing funding to the state-owned
stations, nor cutting the number of ads allowed per hour.