Facing the senators, Vincent Bolloré denies any “interventionism” in his media

As a good industrialist, Vincent Bolloré had come with his “slides” to the Clémenceau room of the Senate. In his ten minutes of presentation, the shareholder of Canal+, of JDD, Prisma, Europe 1, Havas or the Editis publishing group tried to convince the senators that his Vivendi group was ” a dwarf “… facing the Gafa giants. And his strategy was to “to defend European and French culture against American and Asian culture”. He then compared the audience of his various media with the rest of the market.

→ THE CONTEXT. The concentration of the media in the viewfinder of the senators

In response, Socialist Senator David Assouline, rapporteur and initiator of this commission of inquiry into media concentration, listed for two long minutes the impressive list of channels, press titles, publishing houses or video games. controlled by the manufacturer, in France and around the world.

An economic logic

“Why did you build such a media empire? », asked the rapporteur. “Historically, we were in the paper with the OCB cigarette pack”, recalled the industrialist, assuring that his group continued “a purely financial interest” and “the media sector was the one that earned the most money in the world, after luxury”.

→ ANALYSIS. Vincent Bolloré, an unstoppable industrialist

Very quickly, the questions focused on his influence in the media. Sometimes playful, sometimes annoyed, the businessman, who had indicated in the preamble that he was speaking “individually” because he didn’t have “no power” within Vivendi or Lagardère (which he already controls and on which he is about to launch a takeover bid), has continued to kick into touch.

“Stories from five years ago”

The “issues of interventionism” ? “These are two or three same stories (censorship of a documentary on Crédit Mutuel, change of line and massive departures from Canal+ or iTélé, etc.) which are repeated each time”, he pleaded. “It was said that I was involved in the content, without providing the slightest proof, but what is certain is that it was necessary to save money, because Canal+ was in great difficulty and Vivendi was controlled by American funds. »

“Until CNews, there was no opinion television, why did you create one? », asked Laurent Lafon, the LREM president of this commission of inquiry. “It’s a talk channel. No one has the ambition to make it an opinion channel. It is of no interest. We are here for freedom of expression! », retorted Vincent Bolloré, who had previously presented himself as driven solely by the convictions of his “political family: the Christian Democrats”.

→ INVESTIGATION. Vincent Bolloré, the Catholic

Over the two hours of hearing, while the questions related to the editorial line of CNews on which the polemicist Éric Zemmour had since October 2019 a program, came a first slip: “No one thought at the time that he was going to be President of the Republic! », dropped the billionaire. “He is still only a candidate”, retorted, mischievous, David Assouline.

“I don’t have the power to impose things”

Asked about the fact that Éric Zemmour says in his book that the industrialist offered him to join the chain during a lunch, Vincent Bolloré replied that he “tried to bring in a lot of people” and that the polemicist was “already well known”. Immediately emphasizing: “I can propose, give my opinion, but I don’t have the power to impose things”, implied to leaders who decide alone.

About his supposed intervention in the merger between Havas and Vivendi, Vincent Bolloré will end up confiding this anecdote worthy of a confession: “My mistress in 7e 1 had written: Vincent gets involved in everything, he has only to take my place. »

Visibly dissatisfied with the information obtained during the hearing of the Breton industrialist, who confirmed that he would hand over to his teams at the age of 70 on February 18, the senators will question the boss of LVMH Bernard Arnault this Thursday (Les Echos, Le Parisien, Radio Classique) and, on Friday, the founder of Iliad, Xavier Niel (The world, Nice morning, France-Antilles…).

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