France drops charges for D-Day memorial footage amid international outrage

French television stations had planned to charge £160,000 for coverage

French broadcasters have dropped huge charges planned for news outlets wanting to stream their coverage of ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day amid international outrage.

President François Hollande gave exclusive rights to coverage of events in France commemorating the Normandy landings to the national broadcaster France Televisions and TF1, a commercial channel.

They were expected to follow convention by allowing news websites to use their footage free of charge but provoked outrage by announcing charges of €200,000 (£162,000).

It would have meant millions of veterans, armed forces personnel and viewers around the world would be unable to see the main international ceremony attended by the Queen, Barack Obama and world leaders.

News agencies including the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, and ENEX, representing European commercial broadcasters, protested to Mr Hollande's office and requested open access for their 1,500 subscribers around the world.

A spokesman for the Associated Press said host broadcasters usually offer free access to TV signals at events of global significance, or levy small technical charges that the sums previously demanded "far exceeded".

AFP’s global news director, Philippe Massonnet, accused them of "shocking commercialisation" of the historic event but the broadcasters claimed they were trying to cover costs of the tricky outdoor broadcast.

In a U-turn on Wednesday, they issued a statement saying: “Because of the exceptional character of the event and at the request of the president's office, the signal will be available for free."

The BBC's coverage would have been unaffected because it was granted a different arrangement as a publicly-owned broadcaster.

Commemoration ceremonies started on Thursday at the site of Pegasus Bridge in Normandy, which was captured by British forces in the D-Day operations in June 1944.

There was also a mass parachute drop by 16 Air Assault Brigade to mark the liberation of Ranville, the first French village to be liberated from Nazi occupation.

Other events will include memorials along the beaches where Allied troops landed for the invasions.

Additional reporting by AP

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