French TV is not US TV

The important part of this photo is the little "-12 deconseille" icon at the bottom right which means the program is probably unsuitable for kids under the age of 12.
The important part of this photo is the little "-12 deconseille" icon at the bottom right which means the program is probably unsuitable for kids under the age of 12.

More sex and nudity

They don't mind putting some pretty racy stuff on TV. They'll air NC17 movies with group sex and fetishistic behavior after about 9:00 on a weeknight, with nothing more than a little warning in the bottom corner of the screen like the "-12" in the screen capture to the right. That symbol indicates that the content of the program may be inappropriate for children under the age of 12.

Nudity is commonly featured in the evening news either as a matter of biology or in the occasional humor, fluff piece. It's always relatively tasteful, and there are many indications that such an open and honest treatment of nudity is probably healthy for children anyway.

Although, it's hard to really make a case for some of the smut that goes on later at night. It varies from stupid celebrity makeout sessions to stuff going on in the backseat of a limo that seems racier than most HBO latenight programming.

Fewer channels

France has had a lot fewer channels for a long time. Well into the Twentieth Century, there were only a couple channels in France and TF1 was government-run.

My parents told me that TF1, France 2, France 3 and France 5 have since been privatized, but you can still see that they keep the aura of a public institution. This is positive in that they try not to sensationalize stories as much as some of the other stations like M6 which has always been private.

Arte, a channel that showcases cooperation between Germany and France has a lot of really cool programming. It has a mood that reminds me of a college radio station or public broadcast affiliate. There is interesting programming and, even if it errs on the side of being nerdy, it's always stimulating.

The longstanding Canal+ a channel you once had to pirate with a special box made just to capture that one channel, is now a very common household item (probably more common than HBO in the US, but I don't have the numbers to verify that).

And satellites are absurdly common now too, making a lot of what I'm saying outdated. I don't know what French satellite TV is like, but it's a lot like ours. You can see some programming on French TV that I don't get on my US box including alternative media sources from stations in Cuba and Iraq.

On the whole though, it seems like France has very few channels compared to the hundreds on basic cable in most US population centers.

Common experience

One of the social effects of having only a dozen or so channels on basic cable is that people are much more likely to have common television watching experiences.

It reminds me of historical accounts of people listening to radio broadcasts in the privacy of their own homes knowing full well that all their friends were listening to the same program. Back when US TVs featured that blank Indian screen for all the dead hours at night, you were much more likely to find out that your friends had watched the same things as you.

This is still the case in France. I'll commonly hear conversations start up about the report they did on TF1. Or everybody will smile when they realize they all watched the same classic 1970s comedy film that ran on M6 at 8:00 last night. I can't remember the last time a group of totally different individuals who just happen to be working together all watched the same show.

Gullible viewer syndrome

One thing I really dislike about TV over there is how gullible the programmers assume we are as viewers. They still have to present a "you are watching a commercial" message that has to last a certain amount of time to separate shows from ads. This is the kind of thing we do on Saturday morning cartoons since it's hard for kids to realize the difference between the show and the commercials. Adults should probably understand the difference though.

Also, news stations will regularly perform quasi-reenactments. In a story about a hunter hurting a friend in the woods, they'll follow the hunter out to the woods with a camera and he'll talk all whispery while describing what he did a week ago even though the camera is there. Or the story will involve an interview where a person says "That's when I got a phone call" (in French of course) and suddenly they have stock footage of that person answering the phone. Ya, okay, I know what a phone call looks like. You didn't have to fake one for me.

Also the translations are really bad. But I don't know if US news channels are any better. A lot of pundits speak in English in the original broadcasts so I KNOW the French translations are poor. I catch them missing small nuances and larger meanings all the time. But I bet American translations of Arabic and East Asian languages is just as bad.

Things start to look the same

As I mentioned before, satellites are making more channels available and things are beginning to get very similar between French and US TV.

Furthermore, show selection is getting more and more similar. French TV outside of primetime has always been dominated by American syndication. I grew up watching Adam West speak French to Robin and you can still catch TJ Hooker within a couple hours of Monk.

But now, even primetime is being swept by American shows. Heroes gets dubbed and broadcasted within ONE DAY of the original American broadcast. And similar programs syndicate shows like Prisonbreak and House very very quickly.

So one day, it'll all be the same. Oh well.

Well...not EXACTLY the same...

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Comments 20 comments

helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

Wow, perfect answer to my request, mroconnell. I knew nothing about French TV, so I loved your objective comparison and then how you added what you liked and didn't like. Great hub!


robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

Well, French TV may not have as many channels as the USA but they don't have as many commercials either--which I find a refreshing change to say the least:-) Thanks for this hub. I really enjoyed reading it.


mroconnell profile image

mroconnell 8 years ago from France Author

Robie2 makes a good point. It's really nice to have longer stretches of uninterrupted programming (as long as the program isn't Star Academy. Yech).

Thanks, Helena! I'm glad I could be of educational assistance.


mroconnell profile image

mroconnell 8 years ago from France Author

... Like online? So far they haven't found a good way to transfer sustenance over the Internet. Same with French TV. You're much better off going to a restaurant. As for the entire country of France, you probably want more than a comment on that. Try making a hub request that says "Where should I eat in Paris?" or "Where should I eat in Provence?"


Junkster profile image

Junkster 8 years ago from Liverpool, UK

haha, at least it isn't as bad as british TV, it's all phone in celebrity "insert sport/hobby here" and endless boring gritty cop dramas. I tend to either watch American shows or internet shows like Diggnation and The Totally Rad Show


Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France

I am not a big TV fan, but I have 'endured' years of American unbearable TV, South American substandard tv, British and Spanish Tv, and so far I think French tv is the best one despite its drawbacks.


mroconnell profile image

mroconnell 8 years ago from France Author

I like some of the programming on French TV. I love Les Guignol de l'Info, but that's Canal+ so it doesn't really count. And I remember growing up on Les Bebetes. I guess I only really liked political satire shows with puppets. But who wouldn't love puppet political satire? hehe.

I like British TV too sometimes. I know the vast majority is like Junkster described, but you still have Stephen Fry who is like a national treasure. Quite Interesting is like a show designed for me. Nerdy, quirky, humorous and quite interesting. What the French sometimes refer to as farouche, an untranslatable adjective that tends to apply to rascals and poets.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

Interesting hub. I like certain French movies that are subtittled from time to time. The BBC, HBO, CNN, PBS, all have certain shows I can watch from time to time.  It is hard for me to focus on a TV show, I like to read the news online, read books, webpages, or do art work instead.  I can watch certain comedies, but I cannot even watch TV everyday.  I guess this is just me.


Poly_Anna profile image

Poly_Anna 8 years ago

WOW +1 @ SweetiePie :)


Panic 39 profile image

Panic 39 8 years ago

Wish we had some of those channels here in the states!


Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

RE: HBO. Most people don't bother ordering it. With the exception of a few original series, the bulk of its programming are movies you can commonly see on network TV.


English Teacher profile image

English Teacher 7 years ago from Midwestern United States

Interesting. I didn't realize television was so different over there.


Hugh 7 years ago

I'd like to say that France TV (France 2, France 3, France 5 still are governmental channels)

Interesting note.

We now are able to get Franch TV in the USA : http://dishnetworkfrenchbouquet.wordpress.com/


Duncan Hill 6 years ago

Hugh above is right about the France Television channels (they are not privatised). Indeed they have recently reduced the amount of adverts shown in an effort to eliminate them completely.

As for the "you are watching a commercial" message, and the broadcasters assuming the viewers are "gullible"? I think you are referring to the 5 second animations or short films accompanied by a caption with "Pub" or "Publicité"... they are called "break bumpers" in English.

Sorry, but I have news for you. This is normal outside the USA. Certainly almost every European country has such captions. "Werbung" in Germany, "Reklame" in the Netherlands, etc. Private commercial television is quite new in most of Europe, whereas it has existed in the USA since almost the beginning of time.

I have watched American tv, and the programme just fades to adverts without warning and then back again. I found that VERY confusing. Maybe Americans are used to it (the country where the Flintstones used to pitch a certain brand of cigarettes, and no-one batted an eyelid) but it wouldn't happen in most of the world.

So I'm afraid it's the USA that's the odd one in this particular instance, rather than the other way around.


David 5 years ago

I'm a little upset with that article. shouldn't someone that write something should know the subject? There are so many mistakes that I don't even know where to start.

Even if I have to admit that nudity is much more common that in the us television (french people don't scream and hide they'r eyes every time they see a boob), the kind of show you refer to start around 11 and the hot part only after midnight.

As it concern the channels, France 2, 3, 5 and now france 4 are all STILL public and the consequences are not the only lack of sensationalization but also I really high level of quality in most of the shows (high quality literary, political etc.. talk shows are commun).

FYI TF1 became private in 1987 and the quality decreased since then. It is sadly the most watched channel as french people are not less stupid than americans (wall maybe a bit).

The common experience part is quit true though, I didn't really realised it was a french specificity, thank you for that. And the translation are not just bad they are terrible. French people don't want to try original version because they are lazy assholes so they just watched stupidly dubbed movies and TV shows.

ps: I'm french so I really know what I'm talkin about.


bugsy 5 years ago

i have no comment


Nomascus concolor profile image

Nomascus concolor 4 years ago from A Country called Earth

Hi there, France2, France3, France4 and France5 are still a 100% own by the government. It would be good if you could correct this! Thanks


stefano garcia 3 years ago

French tv! no thank`s


Mustafa 23 months ago

Beryl , what an Beryl , what an amazing reipce, I followed your directions to the T and it was amazing my wife and 2 children 3 & 5 yrs old all ate it up. AMAZING , That night the kids slept wit my wife & I because they do that some nights and all 4 of us were in our king size bed and Laughing because those beans gave us some wonderful anal artillary. I will check out some of your other video's as wellBlessings and Grace,Warren Tibbs , KC Missouri


Kaylee 23 months ago

Hey, good to find soomnee who agrees with me. GMTA.

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