the internet has been a hotly debated proposition that is widely criticized
by citizens, economists, and communications experts. Still the government
looking for new sources of income to pay for the escalating cost of
military and social programs, so the issue enjoyed a long debate in the U.S.
Congress, with an extension
of the current tax ban passing only recently after much internal arguing
within both parties.
Now French President Nicolas Sarkozy, oft labeled an iconoclast, has proposed
taxing the internet in France to finance state-owned television. The
scenario provides the interesting reversal of a government looking to give
television special privileges at the cost of internet, in this age, where
usually the internet is constantly stealing TV's thunder. President
Sarkozy gave the announcement at a press conference from Paris's Elysee palace.
The President of France laid
out an extremely controversial program to encourage state run
television. The first step, he says, is to "consider the total
suppression of advertising on public channels" via legislation making them
more viewer friendly. In order to compensate for this loss of revenue, he
suggests "an infinitesimal sales tax on new communication methods, like
internet access and mobile telephony."
Audrey Mandela, founder of the independent London consulting agency Mandela
Associates, is among the experts who say that gaining the support of the French
legislature and the French people for such an initiative would be very
tough. She says, "Generally speaking, taxing the Internet is
considered a bad idea, and a potential brake to net use and development, but
without knowing the details of the French proposal, it's difficult to say how
problematic an Internet tax there would be."
French internet use is growing by 14% per year, with a big 22% increase per
year in high-speed connections. Mandela suggested that a tax may cause
some new users to give up the internet, hurting communications companies.
However, other users need the internet and simply could not give it up, so it’s
not an option. She explains, "The people most likely to balk at
tax-increased Internet prices are new users who figure if it's getting more
expensive, they can keep doing without it. These days, there just aren't
many people who could respond to higher Internet prices by saying, 'Forget it,
I'll just do without the net from now on. Ten, even five years ago, that
wasn't necessarily so. Today, who has the choice?"
The likely proposal is estimated to be a flat tax per-user to Internet Service
Providers (ISPs). There are 16.1 million accounts in the nation, so a
flat monthly surtax of one euro would raise roughly $290 million USD for the
program (about 25% of the $1.2 billion USD in revenue from commercials on
Some say the tax could be even higher, as France has very
cheap internet service rates for Europe. The average monthly bill is a
mere $37, which is around 37% lower than the average of its neighboring
Some critics point out that the plan will lead to job cuts in State TV's
departments. State TV official have come out strongly against the
plan. They point out that President Sarkozy's plan will send the over a
billion dollars in advertiser revenue into the pockets of privately owned TV
networks, including market leader TF1, owned by Martin Bouygues who is a close
friend of Sarkozy.
While some may simply say, "c'est la vie", this unsavory personal
connection and the general implications of taxing the internet have many in
France up in arms.
quote: The difference in approaches that you point out clearly illustrates how socialist-leaning the French government is.
quote: As reported by the BBC, that proposal is as controversial as the rest.
quote: Don't mind us crazy socialist Europeans that have a choice between n+1 commercial channels and state owned channels.
quote: Removing a requirement that the government fund an activity is not an authoritarian measure.
quote: Shut down state-owned television, sell that bandwidth to private firms, and use the money to finance development on next-gen internet services in the country.
quote: My proposal was to stop forcing the citizens of France to pay for a service
quote: Democratic rule doesn't imply that any and all things are moral and just, simply because a majority of the people desire it.
quote: if the government stops spending several billion a year on these stations, then that will automatically reduce their deficit spending and/or tax rate
quote: In the same way, if there was a referendum in the country for a 10% hike in tax to cover health care, and it passed w/ the majority of the people, I would have to live w/ it, even if I didn't support the increase.
quote: they were willing to pay for it directly, there wouldn't be any advertising on those channels, and there certainly wouldn't be any furor over this new proposal.It's rather more accurate to say, "they want it, and they prefer someone else pays for it"
quote: The fact is forcing the entire population to pay for state-subsidized entertainment is a violation of personal liberty.
quote: Which is the system they have in place already . And they're angry about it being removed. Get it now? The furor is over removing the advertising (letting someone else pay for it) and instead instituting a system that means they will be more directly paying for that service.
quote: Scrapping adverts from state TV would mean €800m (£600m) in advertising revenue immediately transferring to private stations.
quote: Within minutes of Sarkozy making the announcement, shares in France's biggest private TV station, TF1, soared
quote: The government plans to tax those private stations to fund state TV.
quote: It's socialism. Tax the hell out of everything and use it for public services that in other, non-socialist countries, are private (like TV, medical, etc). What would you do if the US Fed initiated ANOTHER flat 14% tax on ANYTHING, let alone the net?