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Pirate TV in France (1999)

On July 14, 1999, MediaLibre, a coalition of French public media advocates, decided to celebrate their country's traditional day of independence by breaking its broadcasting laws. Members of the group hosted what they called "A Storming of the Bastille by the Waves," and set up pirate UHF television broadcasts from various neighborhoods in Paris, Montepelier, Tours, and BesanVon.

The point, say MediaLibre members, is to demand the establishment of public media in France that is free of corporate and government influence. "We believe in the absolute need for democratic debate," said a statement issued by the group, "we are conscious of the role which we have to play in a world where freedom of expression and pluralism are suppressed by market logic."

The pirate broadcasts continued from various locations throughout the 14th, and included programs of live music, public speakouts, panel discussions on issues in French media, and, in one case, the Noam Chomsky documentary Manufacturing Consent. Broadcasters also aired programs that had been rejected by national television chains for what MediaLibre activists claim was "subversive" content.

The coalition finished the day by erecting a wall of television sets in front of France's Ministry of Culture and Communication. Although pirate TV broadcasts are a clear violation of French law, no repressive or legal action was taken against the group. MediaLibre is planning another action to take place in October.