France’s controversial CNews becomes top news channel

France’s controversial CNews becomes top news channel

PARIS (AFP): CNews, regularly accused of fostering far-right views, became France’s number one news channel for the first time last month, according to figures published on Monday.

Often described as France’s answer to Fox News due to its opinionated and divisive presenters, CNews reflects a rightwards shift in French politics, often airing views against immigration, Islamism and “woke” leftists.

It denies that it has any political bias.

“We are a mirror of society. Our progress has been constant and has accelerated for several months,” CNews general director Serge Nedjar told AFP.

It took 2.8 percent of the audience share last month, ahead of the long-time leader BFMTV on 2.7 percent, according to data collated by Mediametrie.

The shift comes at a time when polls suggest the far-right is cruising to victory in this month’s European elections in France.

But it has been a vital platform for far-right figures, such as presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who has been convicted several times for racist hate speech, including for comments made on CNews talk shows.

The station insists that it sticks rigidly to rules that ensure each party gets an equal share of airtime ahead of elections.

Launched in 2017, it is part of a media group owned by conservative billionaire Vincent Bollore.

In a rare public appearance before lawmakers in March, he denied imposing any “ideology” on the stations, and said his stations’ only interest was in “telling the truth”.

But CNews and its sister station C8 continue to face regular sanctions from regulators.

Last month, it was fined 50,000 euros for comments by one of its journalists, who blamed anti-Semitism and prison-overcrowding on “Arab-Muslim immigration”.

It was fined in February after one of its shows described abortion as “the leading cause of death in the world”.