26 JULY 2022 - At the time of the proposed merger between OneWeb and Eutelsat, let's not forget the deplorable collaboration of the French company with the Russian war propaganda apparatus.

 

The proposed merger between Eutelsat Communications S.A. and the British company OneWeb, announced Friday 23 July 2022 by Bloomberg, was confirmed on July 26 by the publication of a press release announcing a Memorandum of Understanding between the two companies. This merger should lead in 2023 to a European satellite operator likely to compete with the American companies Starlink of Elon Musk and Kuiper of Jeff Bezos.

 

The announcement has already caused a lot of ink to flow. The Denis Diderot Committee does not intend to comment on the relevance of such an industrial project and continues to limit its action to the question of Eutelsat S.A.'s collaboration with the Russian apparatus of war propaganda . This collaboration is manifested by the provision to three Russian companies (NTV Plus, Trikolor and RSCC) of satellite capacities to broadcast bouquets of radio and television channels to the Russian market.

The Denis Diderot Committee make the following comments

Continuation of the collaboration with the Russian war propaganda apparatus planned for 2022/2023

Focused on the merger project, the press did not pay attention to the fact that Eutelsat S.A. also published its results report for the fiscal year 2021/2022 and its forecasts for the year 2022/23. These explicitly provide for the continuation of activities in Russia, and therefore the continuation of the transmission of the criminal war propaganda channels of Vladimir Putin's regime.

The fact that the press release does not mention the risk of possible sanctions by the European or French authorities or of an exclusion of Russia from the EUTELSAT IGO seems to indicate that the company has obtained guarantees from its Minister responsible, Mr. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty. In a letter of June 23, the French Prime Minister, Mrs Elisabeth Borne, whom we had alerted upon her appointment of the collaboration between Eutelsat S.A. and the Russian war propaganda apparatus, had indicated to the Denis Diderot Committee that she had transmitted our dossier to the Mayor. We have had no news since that date. Furthermore, the 7th package of sanctions adopted on July 21 by the European Union does not include the sanctions that we had proposed against the two Russian platforms that are customers of Eutelsat S.A.

 

While several British newspapers highlighted Eutelsat S.A.'s collaboration with Putin's Russia propaganda, in a statement reported by The Telegraph on July 26, Mrs. Eva Berneke, CEO of Eutelsat S.A., takes up the classic argument of the company's "neutrality" in relation to its customers. She forgets that Eutelsat S.A. is bound by the rules of the EUTELSAT IGO Intergovernmental Convention. This agreement implies that Eutelsat S.A. and its customers respect the rules of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, which Russian customers of Eutelsat S.A. do not.

 

Worse, Mrs. Berneke advances as an excuse that the channels broadcast by Eutelsat S.A. in Russia are "mainly entertainment, sports and children's channels". This is a declaration of complete incompetence or a pure lie: everyone knows that, the most popular channels in the offers of Eutelsat S.A.'s customer platforms are Rossiya 1 (11.7% market share in 2020), Perviy Kanal (10.2%), NTV (9.7%), i.e. the worst of the criminal war propaganda of the Vladimir Putin regime.

 

Mrs. Berneke also ignores the fact that NTV+ and Trikolor, since the beginning of March, have removed eight international news channels from their offer (including BBC World News, CNN, France 24, the Russian version of Euronews,...) (1). Admittedly, the satellite operators do not have control over the selection of channels by the “vertical platforms” which are their main customers. But can Eutelsat S.A. remain neutral with regard to the exclusion of channels which do not correspond to a pure commercial choice but which to acts of censorship, not formalized in decisions of the Russian authorities, and unilateral termination of contracts by its customers?

If Ms. Berneke is serious about neutrality, Eutelsat should open it’s satellites at 36° East to companies that are not under the Kremlin’s control. 36E covers more than 50% of the Russian population who could benefit from alternative Russian languages news channels, which are currently forbidden in Russia. True neutrality would permit allowing such channels to broadcast, but Eutelsat continues to only permit Kremlin approved channels on 36E.

The British partner will not have a say in Eutelsat's customers

 

The British government is a stakeholder in the capital of OneWeb and will become a stakeholder in the capital of the new entity. Is the British government aware that Eutelsat broadcasts the main war propaganda channels of the Vladimir Putin regime to 15 million British households ? On Rossiya 1, commentators are happy to accuse the UK of being behind an alleged Western plan to “disintegrate Russia”. A commentator has even just suggested that during his last mission to Kiev, Boris Johnson was greeted by a missile strike.

The Denis Diderot Committee is surprised that the French government did nothing to end Eutelsat S.A.'s collaboration with the Russian war propaganda apparatus before the merger project was announced. This collaboration is now well known and denounced in Britain, as evidenced by various articles in The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Broadband TV News and in professional newsletters. It seems obvious that this collaboration weakens Eutelsat in its negotiations with British partners. Already France has had to concede to the British government the principle of “Golden shares” and the right of veto over undesirable customers for OneWeb services.

It is interesting to note that in a statement to the newspaper Le Monde, the Ministry of the Economy specified that "there is no special English rights on Eutelsat, they are only on the OneWeb subsidiary, it is a very important point”. We understand by this that the leaders of Eutelsat and the French government do not want a British veto on disturbing customers such as Russian customers but also Chinese customers. The British are more rigorous in terms of television licensing for authoritarian regimes than France, which ultimately defends above all the ability to contract for its satellite operator.[2] The fact that the Chinese sovereign China

The Denis Diderot Committee invites the British Government and Parliament to examine in depth this question of the provision of services by Eutelsat to Russian operators (not only in the field of television) before compromising themselves in a dubious collaboration, similar to that of the French government, despite numerous warnings, has not yet succeeded in getting rid of it.

Ukraine's appeals go unheard

Ukraine's recent calls for Eutelsat's collaboration went unnoticed by most European press headlines. 

 

  • Mr. Dmitry Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister adressing  the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU on July 18, 2022 said: "I also insist that all Russian television channels be banned from European cable and satellite networks. This is not about freedom of speech, but about depriving Russia tools to spread disinformation and state propaganda."

 

 

Elon Musk helps Ukraine more than Eutelsat

 

The leaders of Eutelsat Communications S.A., Eutelsat S.A. and now those of OneWeb as well as the French, British, European political leaders and the Member States of EUTELSAT IGO cannot remain neutral in the face of the war propaganda of the Vladimir Putin regime . The cash flow generated by this is the worst source of financing for an ambitious European industrial project. Many comments can be made on the words and ideological choices of Elon Musk. At least the latter has made satellites of its Stralink network available to Ukraine, not to Putin’s Russia.

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The proposal of an expert in military matters on the Rossiya 1 channel, July 25, broadcast to 15 million Russian households by Eutelsat satellites: to welcome Boris Johnson's last visit to Kiev by sending a missile Kalibr.  (Source : Francis Scarr, BBC Monitoring).

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(1) See the report published on 5 April 2022 by the Denis Diderot Committee.

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[1] The example of the Chinese regime's "soft power" channel, noted by Reporters Without Borders, is enlightening from this point of view: “CGTN has been the subject of contradictory decisions in democratic countries in recent months. The British media regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) withdrew CGTN's license to broadcast in the United Kingdom in February 2021 and fined it in March for broadcasting a forced confession by former journalist Peter Humphrey . But France's High Council for Broadcasting (CSA) ruled on 3 March that, since foreign satellite TV channels do not require prior permission under French law, CGTN can continue to be “broadcast freely, without prior formality” by the French satellite operator Eutelsat. 

Under the EU directive on audiovisual media services and the Council of Europe's European Convention on Transfrontier Television, this CSA ruling effectively allows CGTN to continue disseminating its propaganda throughout Europe. In Germany, for example, CGTN was banned from cable distribution following the Ofcom decision but was restored after the CSA decision. This situation illustrates the limits on the resources available to democracies for opposing Beijing's aggressive propaganda.” “Democracies need “reciprocity mechanism” to combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes”, RSF.org, 27.4.2021

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Videoconference between Mr. Tkachenko, Ukrainian Minister of Culture and Information Policy and Mrs. Rima Abdul-Malak, French Minister of Culture, July 18, 2022.