Breaking the Waves: Ondes Sans Frontiers

By Frederic Madre, 21 January 2004

France's Ondes Sans Frontieres puts the Public back into Broadcasting

French TV never experienced the burgeoning freedom that FM radio thrived on after its liberalisation in the 80s. It was born old, conservative and buckled up, worshipping the American industrialisation process while choosing to retire somewhere between status quo anaesthetic and cynical provider of disposable trash. This nauseating formula made TF1 the most successful channel in geographic Europe and a model that even state-owned France 2 and 3 are eager to emulate.

Undeterred, a new organisation called 'Ondes Sans Frontieres' [] is considering the subversive potential of this long disqualified medium. Stepping in to claim back the industrial playground, OSF is offering public access to gagged radicals and vigilant citizens alike. By adopting a stubborn occupational strategy, it has gained a reputation for being uncompromising about its aims, recently causing the 'Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel' - the supreme authority of radio and TV - to drag it to court for transmitting illegally, even though OSF's official application to obtain this very right was under examination by the Conseil itself.breaking the wavesMuch to the surprise of its resolute crew (an adroit balance of image technicians, artists and activists) the pirate station secured the limited permit it had solicited. This unexpected move can be attributed to the already troubled times that France's leaders were going through thanks to the boisterous campaign of the illegal immigrants known as the 'sans papiers' - a cause to which OSF, fuelled by its 'sponsor' agitator groups, lent its full weight. As a result, residents of East Paris who dared touch their rusty TV dial during the month of June received an incidental mix of live debates, rights-free documentaries, social art videos and random walk-in talks. The now snowy space will be eagerly watched as OSF unveils its new actions early next September.Frederic Madre [] Xfmadre AT wanadoo.frX