Meet the Executive: broadcasters and local participants meet

Meet the Executive is new for FIFO 2019 bringing broadcasters, producers and directors together. It is an important and essential event for presenting the editorial line of television channels and sharing various aspirations with local players.

Broadcasters, producers, directors and filmmakers come together around the table – twenty or so people representing and producing today’s documentaries. Meet the Executive is a new event on offer at FIFO. What exactly is it? It’s about getting audiovisual professionals together, enabling broadcasters to share their aspirations with producers and directors. What are they discussing? The editorial line, an essential benchmark to position the offer on the audiovisual market. FIFO’s first Meet the Executive took place on 7th February. Lodge 2 at the Maison de la Culture was buzzing for almost two hours. Attendees included the French overseas department division of France Télévisions, as well as fifteen or so local producers and directors.

A regional documentary slot

Luc de Saint-Sernin, editorial board director of the French overseas division of France Télévisions, goes around the table before starting the discussions. This is an opportunity to present the current situation of the overseas division. ‘There are a lot of changes going on. We have two workspaces: Outre-mer 1er and France Ô. In the region, we are striving to maintain, whatever the cost, our commitment to documentary as it lends structure to our offering. We are focusing on stocks in terms of volume and editorial. The aim for next autumn is that each territory will have a regional documentary slot and the ‘Archipelago’ slot. We must diversify genres, promote overseas departments and have writing requirements‘. Concern is nonetheless tangible in the meeting. The question everyone is asking is ‘France Ô is going to be scrapped, will there still be enough money for documentary?’ questions Eliane Koller, producer and director in French Polynesia. ‘Investment is anticipated for a solid documentary channel’, confirms Luc de Saint-Sernin, ‘But we’ll come back to this question later.’ It is time for the presentation of the editorial lines and offerings from France Ô and the various Outre-mer 1er services including Oceania, Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna. We find out that Polynésie la 1ère is making its monthly programme Patitifa weekly from autumn 2019. New Caledonia is continuing to open out to the Oceania region, as well as to outside scrutiny. In Wallis and Futuna, we have ideas but the difficulty is first of all in finding the means and skills. Lastly, at France Ô, we consider the offer useful even if the channel will come to an end in August 2020. Solutions are developed and proposed to fill this gap, and we are trying to be reassuring by announcing the creation of a platform with native digital content.

Content platform

The end of France Ô is, indeed, at the heart of the debate. What visibility will French overseas departments have after it stops? Béatrice Nivois, director of the documentary unit of France Ô, explains: ‘We work so that documentaries from French overseas departments are visible one of the group’s channels. For now neither the slot nor the offer have been defined. It’s complicated’. ‘How will content be accessed?’ asks a director. Various players from France Télévisions answer in turn: broadcasting will be on one of the group’s channels but also on the native digital content platform. ‘We’ll create a real offering with a vengeance therefore the organisation is being set up. What is key is that we are putting the audience at the heart of the structure’, emphasises Luc de Saint-Sernin, ‘There are aspirations to continue with documentary and we welcome your suggestions in terms of content. As time passes, the digital offer will be increasingly important. That can be seen for example with Netflix and Amazon. We must get on board, so perhaps there will be less volume but the French overseas departments will be visibly represented’.

Meeting up and sharing

The participants still need convincing: ‘Are viewers really going to look for documentaries on a platform? People generally watch documentaries when they are in front of the TV and come across them by chance. They don’t go looking for them’, ponders the producer and director Philippe Sintès. If local producers and directors are still not clear after this meeting it has at least enabled people to talk. ‘Even if what will happen after France Ô is axed is still up in the air, it’s really good that we can meet stakeholders from the France TV overseas division. It rarely happens so that’s positive!’ stresses the director and producer Denis Pinson. Thomas Delorme, from mainland France, also appreciated being able to meet 1ière stations like Polynésie la 1ère. After the main meeting, some participants had a one-to-one with players from France TV. Thomas, director of Hine Tai’a – Chronique d’une famille de pêcheurs, met Gérald Prufer, the regional director of Polynésie la 1ière. ‘For me, coming from mainland France, it’s really interesting to have contact with the local branches. It enables me to diversify my proposals’. Different representatives from the overseas division of France Télévisions moreover wanted to reassure local participants: all doors remain open. ‘Depending on the subject matter, we will direct you to the appropriate contact’, specifies Patrick Durant-Gaillard, editor in chief of TV magazines and editor of ‘Archipels’ of the Pacific Basin. ‘We must make each other’s subjects endure. Then, there is the follow-up of your projects, we want to help you find funding’. It is reassuring that this first Meet the Executive came to an end on this positive note.

FIFO – Suliane Favennec