Charlie Hebdo Attacks Boost French News Channel Ratings

AP Images
The scene outside Charlie Hebdo

BFMTV and iTele saw record audience shares, but have now been warned by the government for their coverage.

The news frenzy surrounding the terrorist attacks in Paris last month propelled France's CNN-style 24-hour news networks to record ratings, while traditional networks TF1, M6 and France 3 saw declines.

BFMTV hit an all time high of three percent audience share for the month, up from an average of two percent in 2014. It held an eight percent share the day after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The struggling CanalPlus property iTele had an 1.2 percent share, a boost from its usual 0.9 percent. It recorded a historical high of 3.8 percent the day after the first attacks as well.

While the coverage of the attacks may have paid off ratings-wise, the channels have been sanctioned by the government after strong criticism of the coverage. BFMTV in particular was strongly criticized by viewers and politicians for airing information that may have aided the terrorists.

A report published by France's TV-watchdog the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) Thursday issued formal warnings to BFMTV and iTele, along with several additional cautions, for broadcasting information such as identifying the names of the terrorists before possible outside accomplices could be questioned and distributing information and images of ongoing police operations. The networks were also cited for announcing the police operation against Charlie Hebdo attackers Cherif and Said Kouachi while the second hostage situation with Amdey Coulibaly was still underway and revealing information regarding the presence of people hidden in the buildings while the both sets of terrorists were still entrenched, among other breaches.

Formal warnings were also issued against LCI, TF1, France 2, France 24 and Euronews for their coverage. CanalPlus, France 3 and France 5 were issued cautions but not formally cited.

Traditional French networks were down 0.6 percent across the board from January 2014, according to television ratings and trend analysis company Mediametrie. Top-rated network TF1 had a 21.8 percent audience share, M6 was down to 10 percent share, and France 3 had an 8.9 percent share. Each network broke into regular programming at the height of the attacks, including TF1 postponing the series launch of Chicago PD, but did not go wall-to-wall with continuous coverage.