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Eye on France: Are the French suburban poor being by-passed, again?

High rise, low hope: many French suburban zones risk missing out on the great debate.
High rise, low hope: many French suburban zones risk missing out on the great debate. Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

Centrist daily Le Monde reports a growing level of concern that much of poor working-class France is being left out of the on-going “great national debate”. Plus, the results of the La Croix annual survey of public attitudes to the media.


Are the poor missing out on the on-going “great national debate”?

The concern is shared by politicians and organisations working to improve social conditions in underprivileged areas

Le Monde says the really poor are the obvious absentees from the discussions initiated by President Emmanuel Macron as part of his response to demands by the gilet jaune protestors for a government which listens to the ordinary citizen.

The centrist daily says the excluded poor were never part of the protest movement, believing that their worries were too far removed from those of the yellow vests. Why fight for better working conditions when you have no job? Or cheaper diesel if you have no car?

The debate is a distraction

According to one mayor, the debate is a distraction for most of his residents. “We’ve identified the problems,” he says. “We know the solutions. And now we’re supposed to start all over again, as if we hadn’t been working on this for years?”

Another local politician notes with exasperation that the only debate topic specific to the poor suburbs is the question of religion, reducing a plethora of social difficulties to the recurrent “problem” of France’s Muslim communities. “Why not talk about discrimination?” he wonders.

The broader danger is that the poor suburbs risk, once again, being by-passed by the latest wave of reform. “If we don’t make ourselves heard,” says the leader of the Suburban Respect collective, “then Macron won’t worry. We have to remind the politicians that we exist.”

And the charitable Abbé Pierre Foundation seems to share those concerns, with the organisation’s boss, Christophe Robert saying the various income boosts being promised by the government are not going to help the really badly-off to escape the poverty treadmill.

Don't believe what you are about to read!

The French don’t trust radio, television or print journalists. And the situation is even worse than last year. Those are the main conclusions to be drawn from the annual review of media confidence published today by the Catholic daily paper La Croix.

We knew that things were going to be bad, especially after reporters were targeted by some gilet jaune protestors. The yellow vests accuse the hacks of being the biased, elitist lackies of the politically powerful.

It’s even worse than we feared

Only half of those questioned earlier this month by La Croix said they believe what we on the radio present is a true picture of what is really going on.

And the wireless has traditionally been judged as meriting a high level of listener confidence. Radio journalists lost six points in 12 months and are now at their lowest point since La Croix started asking the French to grade their purveyors of information over three decades ago.

The printed press did even worse, losing 8 points to settle at just 44 percent of positive opinions.

TV plunged 10 points to 38 percent confidence. Paradoxically, the telly remains the chief source of information for the French.

The internet remains stable at a fairly miserable 25 percent.

A growing; more fragmented, market

Only one-third of those questioned felt that the recent public hostility aimed at journalists was a serious concern, nearly a quarter of respondents saying they thought the threats, insults and blows dished out to many reporters during the yellow vest protests was “justified”.

Another quarter are convinced that journalists serve the interests of their political and economic masters.

The only positive finding is that the overall market for news is expanding. Sixty-seven percent of those questioned are interested in what journalists produce, and increase of 5 points over last year. But the poorly-qualified young are drifting ever further away from traditional media and what we think of as news. If the alternative is Facebook or Twitter, that can’t be good. Or can it?

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