France drops legal quota on French radio song

France drops legal quota on French radio songs as DJs forced to play 'boring old ballads'

Responding to increasing pressure from stations opposed to the quota, MPs voted on Wednesday to reduce quota from 40 to 35 per cent

France’s MPs have voted to reduce the country's legal quota of French songs played on the radio amid complaints the rule forces DJs to repeatedly play ‘boring’ old French ballads.

Imposed in 1994 to protect France from what the government saw as the “Anglo-Saxon cultural invasion”, the 40 per cent quota is increasingly making life difficult for programmers because a high proportion of young French artists such as Daft Punk are now singing in English to attract a more international audience. The quota will now be lowered to 35 per cent.

Many stations have resorted to repeating the same songs ad nauseam, with the culture ministry saying in September that only 10 songs accounted for 74 per cent of the French titles aired on NRJ radio, and 67 per cent of those broadcast on another station, which has the English-sounding name Skyrock.

Responding to increasing pressure from stations opposed to the quota, MPs voted on Wednesday to reduce it from 40 to 35 per cent. For stations specialised in foreign music, such as Radio Latina, it will be only 15 per cent.

But the concession comes with a condition: stations will have to air more new French songs as the country's culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, said: “This is a balanced solution.”

However, programmers may struggle to find new titles and will have to include unpublished songs. Some fear it will lead to a fall in quality.

Stations have also complained that the quota does not apply to music streaming sites such as Spotify.

A group of radio stations recently protested by defiantly ignoring the quota for 24 hours and their message appears to have been heard by the authorities.

However, many in the music industry want the quotas to remain. Emmanuel de Rengervé, executive officer of the National Union of Artists and Composers, said: “Contrary to what the radio stations claim, this law of quotas is not at all outdated. In fact, it’s even more relevant now than ever.”

Mr de Rengervé added: “If the French language disappears, it would represent a cultural and linguistic impoverishment not just for France but for the whole world."