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29.02.2012   MANIFESTO FOR DOCUMENTARY PRODUCTION – FRANCE TELEVISIONS

When talking about the world’s successful public service broadcasters, France Televisions is definitely one of them. First operating in 1964 as France’s premier broadcasting service, France Televisions now comprises of six channels, each with distinct identity. Each day, four out of ten French people watch the programs on its channels, with France 2 gaining the country’s second largest viewing audience. France Televisions offers diverse programs to inform, entertain and educate viewers. Among its diverse programs, one of the most successful genres is documentary.

Regarding documentary as central to its broadcasting, France Televisions has issued the manifesto for documentary-making to proclaim that this genre of program is not only obligatory quotas or constraints, but actually “the heart of the notion of public service, the heart of the creation.” The directors of documentaries on every of its channel have co-signed the manifesto based on the principal that “documentary is not about a subject, but a piece of work that marries up knowledge or an experience with a vision.”

On the belief that documentary is the most independent and the freest genre of television program, France Televisions offers documentary on every of its channels from morning to evening, even in primetime. The French public broadcaster values documentary as “a true engagement.”
…It contributes to the life of the citizen by creating stories that allow people to comprehend, beyond the current events, the movements that pass through and shake the world. Some of the films even allow us to dream that another world is possible. Others reveal a face of the world we have never imagined.    

The documentary broadcasted on France Televisions is founded on the three principals the station strongly attaches to: the difference, the uniqueness and diversity, and the meeting up of all stakeholders.

The documentary should propose a unique experience, depending on a subjective viewpoint. It is open for and ready to blend with writing styles from other genres, such as fiction, investigative journalism or magazine. But the heart of documentary lies on the desire to seize the reality with rigor and transform it into a story. The documentary should deliver “an intimate experience, evoking emotions and senses, a revision of our perceptions by a personal story.”

Like any public broadcasting services, France Televisions is financed by the public in forms of license fees and public subsidies. The broadcaster is imposed to deliver a maximum return on investment to their contributors by producing programs that address to the largest number of people. In order to do so, France Televisions is engaged to work with a great diversity of social groups. The public has negotiated agreements lasting several years with the producers to give the latter an essential framework. The agreement covers the increase of the contribution to documentary genre, a better funding by France Televisions and transparency of its policy towards the producers. Production companies, established or new-founded, are also welcomed to work with the French public stations, given that their proposals demonstrate creativity and audacity.

To make the best of the Digital Age, France Televisions has been investing in digital technology, fostering wide ranges of innovations. The French public broadcaster has developed a key word: “innovate to better depict the reality, innovate to better adapt to new practices and new usages of documentary contents.” Some of its innovations are the web documentary and transmedia storytelling. Web documentary offers a new way to structure the story with a combination of multimedia tools, making it possible to create a non-linear narrative. Transmedia storytelling is a technique of telling the same story across multiple platforms, i.e. aerial and online. France Televisions also offers its films on pluzz.fr and video on demand after broadcasted on television, believing that the documentary should be like “a long trail of comets” visible long after their first and fleeting appearances.

As a new face in public broadcasting industry, Thai PBS regards France Televisions’ manifesto as a valuable model for the development of its documentary programs and a guideline for promoting the documentary genre – a mission Thai public broadcaster holds at its heart.