For the CSA, Eric Zemmour is now a full-fledged politician. The institution responsible for monitoring pluralism has asked the audiovisual media to count, from Thursday, September 9, the speaking time of the polemicist, withdrawn from Figaro, but still columnist on CNews.

Relying on the law of September 30, 1986, the audiovisual policeman justified his decision by considering that Eric Zemmour “could be looked at from now on, both by his positions and his actions, as by the comments to which they give place, as an actor in the national political debate “.

“In law, we can not consider a potential candidate as a candidate”, reacted in this regard the entourage of the polemicist near LCI. “Where is the legal basis? It is a decision based on presumption and rumor.”

If the person concerned has so far not made an application for the presidential election, the CSA relies on several signals sent and reported daily by the media. In addition to his withdrawal from Figaro, Eric Zemmour will embark on a national tour to promote his new book, with a dedicated website for the occasion.

It has also adopted the beginnings of a political agenda. He recently accepted the principle of a meeting with Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate, under the aegis of the mayor of Béziers Robert Ménard, and opened the door, on social networks, to a debate with the LFI candidate Jean- Luc Mélenchon.

Above all, support groups have been formed since this summer, in particular at the origin of poster campaigns bearing his effigy, and an informal team is already responsible for ensuring its communication as well as collecting signatures from local elected officials with a view to a candidacy – LCI was able to consult a letter addressed to a mayor, or to prospect for possible political rallies. Finally, Eric Zemmour is now tested in opinion polls relating to the presidential election, a criterion that may be of interest to the CSA.

All without considering for the moment to leave his post as columnist on the CNews channel, where he officiates daily.

The principle of counting, outside the electoral campaign period – which does not begin until six weeks before the poll – is not limited to declared or elected candidates, or even to members of established parties. Anyone identified as having an active role in the political debate is counted, at all times and to the nearest second, a speaking time. The latter is distributed according to political parties or sensitivities and speaking time is calculated, in the audiovisual media, in proportion to their weight in the last elections.

“If we look at the law of 1986, reference is made to pluralism, but not to political parties or groups”, notes Marc Le Roy, doctor of public law and author of Law of audiovisual (2020), from LCI. “Article 13 mentions currents of thought or opinions. In addition, in a 2017 deliberation on pluralism, the CSA mentioned parties, but also ‘political groups’, which is a more vague notion.”

For example, the statement of intervention times from April 1 to 30, 2021 on general interest or news channels mentions 21 established political movements, but also four broader sensitivities (various right, various left, various center, various). In addition, it distinguishes the speeches of the executive (President of the Republic, government, collaborators), which must represent one third of the overall speaking time, from those of other political expressions, including the opposition (two thirds of the speaking time).

The recording of speaking time, which is the responsibility of the audiovisual media, also identifies personalities. When we look at the list of these, we note that some actors not affiliated to a party, without a mandate, but also without a stated electoral ambition, are counted: Philippe de Villiers (classified various right), Marion Maréchal (various right ) or Arnaud Montebourg (various left), who however last April was neither a candidate nor a member of a party or even holder of an electoral mandate. In short, the case of Eric Zemmour is, as such, nothing new, except that Eric Zemmour occupies a daily slice in a news channel.

Eric Zemmour’s entourage told LCI on Thursday morning to explore possible avenues of appeal against the decision of the CSA. “In law, we cannot consider a potential candidate as a candidate,” we were told. In addition, “should we count the speaking time of all leftist editorial writers?”, One observed.

In this case, Eric Zemmour “could raise the question of respect for the principle of equality before the law and freedom of expression by asserting that there are two weights and measures according to the editorialists”, believes Marc Le Roy in subject to possible appeal. According to the lawyer, this appeal could result, for example, in an interim relief, which would require a response from the Council of State within 48 hours, followed by an appeal for excess of power.

Basically, nothing prevented the CSA from waiting for Eric Zemmour to be formally a candidate to request the count of his speaking time, also notes the specialist in public law. The polemicist, used to media coverage, however, made the headlines even before having announced his intentions for 2022. This could explain the precipitation of the CSA to lay groundwork around the potential candidate.

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