French out of tune with le rock 'n' roll

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Associated Press

Paris - France's Canute-like determination to hold back the tide of Anglophone culture has found a new victim today: le rock 'n' roll.

From midnight last night, French radio stations - even those dedicated to British and American rock - face suspensions and huge fines unless at least 40 per cent of their pop songs are in French.

The problem is that there are not enough French pop groups to fill the airwaves. The law, passed in 1994, has gradually forced radio stations to increase their quota of Le Pop Francais. The new, tougher rules, coming into force with the new year, are driving radio executives, and pop fans, to distraction.

"There just aren't enough French artists. The quality is mediocre," said Caroline Davigny, programme director at Fun Radio. "We've felt rather negative effects in the last six months, and now it'll be worse."

Ms Davigny's station used to play non-stop Anglo-American hits. She complains she is being forced to flood her air-time with ageing French rockers, unpopular with the young, such as Johnny Halliday, and the handful of French rap bands, like MC Solaar, who are successful at home and abroad. "You can't fill the quota with a bunch of little rap groups," she added.

The French radio charts are dominated by foreign bands; only six French groups made the Top 20 last month. "I think it's rather stupid. Just because we're in France doesn't mean we have to listen to French music," said Audrey Ullman, 22, a fan of Prince and the Grateful Dead, browsing for CDs at the Louvre Museum's shopping mall.

"The law was made to defend French culture and economic activity," argued Dominique Devidts, a spokesman for the official Council on Audiovisual. "If we're taken over by American music, we won't be economically viable anymore."

He is not entirely without support among pop fans. Back at the Louvre shopping mall, Christian Boy, 35, a soldier in Levi jeans and jacket, swayed to the late French crooner, Claude Francois .

"I love French music. We're too invaded by Anglo-Saxon music," he said. "Radios should make more room for our music, which has beautiful words."