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Representing “Diversity”: The Social and Professional Conditions for Accessing Public Funding in the French Audiovisual Sector

Qui représente la « diversité » ? Les conditions sociales et professionnelles de l’accès à une aide publique dans le secteur audiovisuel français
Evélia Mayenga
Traduction de Delaina Haslam
Cet article est une traduction de :
Qui représente la « diversité » ? Les conditions sociales et professionnelles de l’accès à une aide publique dans le secteur audiovisuel français [fr]

Résumés

En France, les financements publics occupent une place particulière dans les circuits de production et de consécration du cinéma et de la télévision. Offrant des ressources financières et une légitimité à des œuvres jugées comme étant de « qualité », ces aides constituent un observatoire propice pour identifier les rapports sociaux intriqués, de genre, de race, de classe, qui organisent l’accès à la création audiovisuelle. En prenant pour objet la commission « Images de la diversité », un dispositif de financement singulier destiné à lutter contre les discriminations dans le domaine audiovisuel, cet article propose d’étudier les modalités de ce soutien de l’État à un secteur culturel. Créée en 2007 pour aider des œuvres contribuant à « représenter la diversité », cette commission a mis en œuvre des critères d’attribution entre artistique et politique, et à la jonction de rapports de race, de classe, d’âge et de migration. En analysant un corpus de 1 318 œuvres, récits et sociétés de production aidés, cet article cherche à identifier les conditions sociales et professionnelles de ce soutien à la « diversité », et de l’accès à la production et à la légitimité dans le secteur audiovisuel français.

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Texte intégral

Word cloud of most-used terms in the synopses of audiovisual works funded by the Images de la diversité commission (n=677; 2007-2011).

Source: Author, Iramuteq.

Introduction

  • 1 The CNC is the public body responsible for the conception and implementation of French government p (...)
  • 2 Public, or so-called selective, audiovisual funds imply an artistic and administrative assessment o (...)

1In France, public funding occupies a specific place in the production and consecration cycles of film and television. This funding system is part of a long-established policy of state support for the audiovisual sector, which has been managed since 1946 by the National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image (Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, CNC).1 It comprises selective grants which are aimed at works that have the least financial backing but are considered the most innovative from an artistic perspective. These selective grants are part of a funding policy for artistic projects that are supposedly freed from any “external servitude” (Bourdieu 1971: 69) and from any economic or political dependency (Dubois 1999; Hammou et al. 2019).2 Awarded by a panel of experts, they support productions that conform to a certain definition of “quality” or artistic value (Gimello-Mesplomb 2003). Since they offer producers financial resources as well as various forms of cultural legitimacy (Dubois 2001), these grants contribute to the symbolic recognition of works from the early stages of writing or development. In this respect, they constitute an ideal empirical platform to identify the interconnected social relations of gender, race, and class, as well as the social conditions of production and legitimisation which shape access to artistic fields and to the French audiovisual sector. By focusing on a specific funding for the creation of audiovisual work, this article seeks to analyse the logic behind the awarding of these public funds, and therefore the configurations and the barriers to entry into artistic creation (Mauger 2006, 2007).

  • 3 Established in 2006, Acsé is an agency supporting those in in need of social integration and employ (...)
  • 4 Decree No. 2007-181 of 9 February 2007 on the establishment of the Images de la diversité commissio (...)
  • 5 Ibid., Art. 3.

2The Images de la diversité commission [Diversity Images Commission] was established by decree in 2007 by the CNC and the National Agency for Social Cohesion and Equal Opportunities (Agence nationale pour la cohésion sociale et l’égalité des chances, Acsé).3 This funding mechanism is in fact an exception to the rule in the landscape of public funding for the French audiovisual sector. Set up, as we shall see, in a context of politicization of race and of issues of visual representation in France, this commission was given the task of symbolically resolving discrimination in and by the audiovisual sector. Responding to the public problem of a lack of “representation of diversity”, its principal mission was to provide support for audiovisual projects that contributed to integration and anti-discrimination in France. It aimed to support projects whose content represented groups “from immigrant backgrounds” and from overseas territories.4 Since its creation, the Images de la diversité commission has awarded more than 30 million euros to nearly 1,500 film and television projects, improving, according to its founding text, the “visibility of all those who make up French society today.”5 Conceived as a compensatory tool to combat discrimination, this commission therefore represents a unique route of access to public funding for the arts. Defined according to a racializing and thematic criterion, oscillating between class, age, territory, and migration, it is also an attempt by the state to modify social relations in film and television, by redefining the criteria of artistic legitimacy. In this respect, the Images de la diversité commission informs us as much about the official modalities of racialization of populations in France as about the official diagnoses of the discrimination they might face, in their representation by and in the audiovisual sector.

  • 6 As it was founded on non-artistic criteria, the Images de la diversité commission stands in contras (...)

3Focusing on this unique commission and the struggles brought about by its implementation, this article seeks to understand the influence of race, class and gender relations on the way French audiovisual works are selected and consecrated. What do the selection criteria for the projects, narratives, and prospective producers applying for the Images de la diversité grant tell us about the idea of discrimination in the audiovisual sector? What are the social and professional characteristics of the work deemed to be legitimate in “representing diversity” and why are they judged as such? Moreover, what does this political initiative, far removed from the “purest” ambitions of French film policy, tell us about the traditional functioning of public funding for “quality” film and audiovisual productions?6 Using quantitative analysis of narratives, projects, and organizations that have been supported by the Images de la diversité commission (cf. Box 1), this article seeks to respond to these questions in order to understand the conditions of France’s support for “diversity”.

  • 7 In France, “diversity” entered political vocabulary during the 2000s, at a time when French policie (...)
  • 8 As “diversity”, like “quality”, is posited as an issue of struggle, the use of inverted commas to d (...)

4In a first part of the article, a look back to the moment of creation of the Images de la diversité commission will show how it became a site of fluctuating definitions of “diversity” and its “promotion”, oscillating between class, race, age, and migration over the past fifteen years.7 Then, by summarizing the changes in its allocation approach, a second part of the article will show that the implementation of this initiative has not been without resistance from its supervisory institutions. Analysing the characteristics of the projects, narratives, and production companies that have been supported at different times throughout the Images de la diversité commission’s history will provide insight into the contradictory definitions of cinematic “quality” and anti-discrimination in the audiovisual sector. While the implementation of this entry point may have opened up access to public funding for marginalized producers, it has also resulted in the Images de la diversité commission becoming normalized and assimilated into regular CNC grants. Finally, in a third section, the article will compare the Images de la diversité selection criteria before and after this normalization. In doing so, it will analyse the social and professional boundaries of the “diversity” promoted by this public funding.8

Box 1. Ethnographic survey and results’ status

This article presents intermediary findings of research conducted for a political science PhD thesis focusing on diversity policies and race, gender, and class relations as they manifest in the contemporary French film and audiovisual sector. It is based on an ethnographic survey that began in 2017 and is currently being finalized. The survey uses interviews, observations, statistical processing, and archival resources. The material is primarily based on interviews carried out with administrative staff, members, and users of the Images de la diversité commission since its establishment in 2007 (no.= 23). This qualitative material was completed using a self-produced database listing the projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission between 2007 and 2020 (no.= 1,318). The statistical processing of the characteristics of the projects (genre, field, length, support by institution, etc.) and the production companies (location, seniority, multiple activity, self-production, etc.) on different samples served as the basis for this article’s results. Some incomplete public sources have restricted the chronological scope of some of the statistical processing, which will concentrate on different periods of the commission’s activity, between 2007 and 2020.

A State Definition of Social Relations Across the French Audiovisual Sector

The Political Criteria for an Artistic Public Fund

  • 9 Decree No. 2007-181 of 9 February 2007 on the establishment of the Images de la diversité commissio (...)

5The Images de la diversité commission represents an incursion of political issues into a long-standing system of support for French audiovisual production. This public support system traditionally relies on a principle of autonomy of creation, and on “selection criteria [which] meet highly specific categories of judgement” with regard to cinematographic and audiovisual art (Pacouret & Hauchecorne 2019). Benefiting from projects of all genres (works of fiction, documentary, animation, magazine, etc.), in all fields (cinema, television, multimedia), and at any stage of production (from writing to broadcast), its funding is distributed according to content criteria. These criteria have been in place since the Images de la diversité commission’s founding decree, which gave a circumscribed definition of the nevertheless unstable term of diversity. The decree emphasized the commission’s aims of integration and anti-discrimination, intended to benefit “immigrant populations or populations from immigrant backgrounds” and overseas territories.9 While the text did not specify regions of origin for these immigrant populations, it emphasized the need to support work that contributes to “knowledge of the realities and expression”, to the “memory, history, and cultural heritage” of these populations, to their “links to France”, to their “visibility”, and to the “construction of a common history around shared values” (cf. Box 2).

Box 2. Art. 3 of Decree No. 2007-181 of 9 February 2007 establishing the Images de la diversité commission

The Images de la diversité commission will base its decisions on the contribution of the submitted works or programmes to Article 1:
1° To knowledge of the realities and expression of immigrant populations or populations from immigrant backgrounds;
2° To knowledge of the realities and expression of populations from the overseas departments and overseas communities;
3° To the presentation of the memory, history and cultural heritage of these populations and their links to France;
4° To the fight against discrimination;
5° To the visibility of all populations that make up French society today;
6° To the construction of a common history around shared values.

  • 10 Politique de la ville” (urban policy) is a set of inter-sectoral public policies aimed at reducing (...)
  • 11 Among the forty funds managed by the CNC, the only one with this type of co-management between two (...)
  • 12 However, there is a historic reason for this dual administration since, before 2007, Acsé hosted an (...)

6The requirement to represent diversity was thus, from the outset, the official selection criterion of the audiovisual works examined by the Images de la diversité commission. Far from the autonomous and specific ambitions which had historically governed the French film policy, Images de la diversité instilled political and social criteria into funding of the audiovisual sector. Moreover, the heteronomy of these funding criteria is reflected in its institutional affiliations, since Images de la diversité is linked to two distinct public institutions. The commission is overseen on the one hand by the CNC, the public administration in charge of French film policy, but also by Acsé (which would become CGET and then ANCT), which manages integration, anti-discrimination, and French urban policy.10 This dual administration—which is pretty unique within the CNC11—has had significant consequences for the composition and functioning of the commission.12 On the one hand, it determines the profile of its appointed members, who are chosen not only for their artistic and professional expertise, but also—for half of them—for their knowledge of urban policy and the fight against discrimination. On the other hand, the dual administration resulted, during the implementation of the commission, in the existence of two separate administrative offices—one at the CNC, the other at Acsé—operating, as we shall see, according to two different types of administrative criteria.

Combating Discrimination on a Symbolic Level

  • 13 The “2005 riots” correspond to a movement of urban revolts that began in the Parisian suburb of Cli (...)

7The uniqueness of this public funding is due to its compensatory nature and to the context of politicization of the issues behind the representation of diversity on the screens that brought about its creation. It was in fact following the crisis of the 2005 French urban uprisings, and on the French presidency’s initiative, that the commission was conceived between 2006 and 2007.13 Its creation followed an official problematization of the lack of minority “representation” on screens, in a televised speech delivered by the head of state on 14 November 2005. Jacques Chirac argued on this occasion that “the media should better reflect the French reality of today”, using the idea of representation as a “mirror” to society, a metaphor already used in French political debate surrounding parity (Achin 2001). As a result of this speech, Chirac received the main public and private channel executives, as well as the directorship of the CNC and the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (Superior Audiovisual Council, CSA) at the Élysée Palace. After this meeting, a panel of symbolic actions in favour of “diversity” was set up in the audiovisual sector (Cervulle 2013; Chupin et al. 2016; Diao 2017; Humblot 2007). Among them, the CNC and Acsé’s Images de la diversité commission, conceived with an initial budget of 5 million euros, became one of the few public action initiatives which transformed the diversity slogan into operational action.

  • 14 With an average allocation of 2.6 million euros per year, the Images de la diversité fund remains m (...)

8Awarding an average amount of 22,000 euros per project and distributing around 135 subsidies per year (they can be cumulated), the commission aims to reward projects not for their innovative or economically risky character, but for their thematic contribution to the “construction of a [French] common history” (cf. Box 2). With this definition, the initiative provided an administrative translation of a certain conception of discrimination and its reparation in the audiovisual field. Indeed, in both its founding text and Chirac’s speech, an imperative of “representation” and “visibility” is evoked, and the commission’s missions are essentially orientated towards the production of images and narratives that represent diversity. This first symbolic definition of discrimination—which does not consider the potential discrimination faced by “diverse” producers in accessing the means of audiovisual production—is also reflected in the action of the commission. The commission indeed distributes small sums to a large number of projects which contribute to these objectives of integration, representation, and antidiscrimination (cf. Table 1).14

Table 1. Number of projects funded and budget per year of the Images de la diversité commission (2007-2020)

Year

Number of projects funded

Annual budget in millions of €

Average funding per project in thousands of €

2007

175

4.6

26

2008

135

4.1

30

2009

129

3.6

28

2010

119

3.4

29

2011

130

3.6

28

2012

48

0.9

19

2013

100

2.1

25

2014

68

1.3

19

2015

80

1.5

19

2016

121

2.5

21

2017

37

0.7

18

2018

115

2

17

2019

80

2.1

26

2020

79

1.6

20

Total

1,416

34

325

Source: CNC annual reports.

Diversity Between Gender, Race, Age, Class, and Migration

  • 15 For Colette Guillaumin (2016 [1992]), race is the relationship that racializes social differences, (...)

9The Images de la diversité commission was thus created between a sectoral film public support policy, embodied by the CNC, and an exceptional and de-sectorized policy against discrimination, represented by Acsé. Its political beginnings and its dual institutional affiliation illustrate a particular interpretation of social relations by the state. In a context of crisis and the “rise of the race issue” in France (Fassin & Fassin 2006), it constituted a symbolically and economically effective response for political leaders. By implementing this anti-discrimination commission, they temporarily assigned populations which were discriminated against, and those from immigrant and overseas departments to the category of “diversity”. Obliged to name the populations it intended to represent, the Images de la diversité fund thus provides a rare example of the state designating some social groups as “other” within French society (Guillaumin 2002 [1972]; Sabbagh 2009). Regulated as an initiative to combat discrimination, it has transformed geographical, cultural, and migration attributes into racializing ones. In the founding texts, being an immigrant or the child of immigrants or living overseas define the contours of funded content’s diversity, institutionalizing for a period of time the “system of marks” sustaining race relations in the French context (Guillaumin, 2016 [1992]).15

  • 16 Decree No. 2012-582 of 25 April 2012 relating to the Images de la diversité commission.
  • 17 The film and animation code (general funding regulations); articles 422-1 to 422-53.
  • 18 This new component can indeed be interpreted as paving the way for “young” film productions “that i (...)
  • 19 However, the extension of diversity to components of class and age is not surprising. Its seeds wer (...)

10The “othering” attributes defining diversity have also significantly evolved over time, as different texts have redefined the aims of the Images de la diversité commission. In a new decree of 2012, diversity was extended to include inhabitants of “urban policy priority neighbourhoods”, and the notion of “common history” was replaced by that of “values of the Republic”.16 A component of class and territory was then added to the geographical, cultural, and migratory attributes in the definition of diversity, and the commission stated that funded projects could also represent the most deprived French neighbourhoods. This territorial dimension to the fund was increased in 2016, with a new text specifying that Images de la diversité also aimed to support works that contribute “to equality between men and women” and “to fighting discrimination against the inhabitants of deprived neighbourhoods, in particular discrimination relating to where they live”.17 The guidelines once again highlight the importance of promoting appreciation of these areas, stating that the funding should promote the “emergence of new writing and new talent”, expanding the scope of its work to include “young” producers from deprived French neighbourhoods.1819

11Hazy requirements such as diversity leave wide margins for redefinition by the state and its agents—margins which are invested differently depending on the social context and the politicization of class, gender, and race discrimination (Bereni & Jaunait 2009; Doytcheva 2018). In the case of this funding, diversity has mainly oscillated between race, class, age, territory, and migration, substituting racializing attributes interchangeably for the purposes of combating discrimination. Even the idea of “diversity promotion” has evolved over time, with the introduction of the “young talent” component that aimed at facilitating access to public aid for less well-off producers. This measure is thus not only focused on the symbolic (on-screen) representation of diversity, but also on the question of access to resources and the career (off-screen) of producers from “diverse” backgrounds. With it came reform of the commission in 2016, which increased financial support at the writing and development stages (cf. Figure 1), and established writing residencies designed to improve the “quality” of projects considered promising yet unfinished, and to prepare them for resubmission. This transition in the state’s interpretation of social relations in the audiovisual sector occurred at the same time as a shift in balance between the two institutions in charge of the Images de la diversité commission (CNC and Acsé/CGET) (cf. Figure 3). Indeed, in its incursion of political and social criteria into a historically routinized system of artistic public support, the history of the Images de la diversité commission is also one of tension between administrative, artistic, and political interests—between requirements for diversity and demands for film quality.

Fig. 1. Funding distribution by project stage (2007-2020)

Fig. 1. Funding distribution by project stage (2007-2020)

Values for years marked with an asterisk (*) are only indicative due to incomplete sources.

Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012); CNC, Images de la diversité results (2007-2020).

Allocating Funding, Between “Quality” and “Diversity”

The Two Images de la diversité Offices

12The introduction of non-artistic selection criteria into a routinized cultural policy has not been without consequence for the implementation of the Images de la diversité commission. From its creation, its aims were interpreted differently by its two supervisory institutions, each of which began to operate with its own office, rules, and award procedures. Between 2007 and 2016, a production company could therefore apply for Images de la diversité funding via one of the two offices, that of Acsé/CGET or that of the CNC, or even via both institutions, provided that they met the eligibility criteria. This “baroque” set-up, as one agent admitted, lasted until a 2016 reform in which the Images de la diversité funding was centralized into a single office administered by the CNC. Studying the process of selection at these two offices thus allows us to compare the different interpretations of the aims of the funding by the Acsé/CGET and the CNC. It reveals two competing definitions of the ideal recipient of Images de la diversité, and two opposing views of “entry rights” (Mauger 2006) into the French audiovisual professional space.

  • 20 [Acsé/CGET agent] and [CNC agent] are noted after interview citations with theagents responsible f (...)

13At the first office, Acsé/CGET agents examined all applications received, without prior technical criterion, provided that the company or organization behind it was registered in France. After recognizing the feasibility and relevance of a project, the administrative agents would submit it to the plenary Images de la diversité commission to receive the opinion of its members. Defence of these projects was thus based on criteria of artistic quality, “since there was no question of putting forward projects which had no cinematographic merit” [Acsé/CGET agent]20, but also and above all on the alignment of these projects with the Acsé/CGET’s politics, i.e. with themes that, in the words of one of its agents, related to “our subjects: diversity, history, memory, integration, urban policy, youth, banlieues, etc.”.

  • 21 The term is used in the commission’s 2007-2010 activity report, which distinguishes the “CNC bonus” (...)

14At the other office, that of the CNC, only projects that had received a selective grant from another CNC commission could apply for Images de la diversité support. This criterion limited the number of applications and avoided re-adjudication of the quality of a project rejected by another commission. Delegating the assessment of artistic quality and economic feasibility to other commissions also simplified the administrative work, leaving those responsible for the administration of the Images de la diversité commission with the task of verifying the conformity of the application and judging “whether or not [the applicants] feel that the project fits with the themes” [CNC agent]. This criterion of selective grants had the effect of targeting the recipient audience, making the funding a diversity “bonus”21 intended for productions that “already knew how it works” [CNC agent], which were already recognized by the institution and thus guaranteed to be already professionalized within the film sector. With its “more open” selectivity [Acsé Agent], the Acsé/CGET office aimed to encourage initiatives rooted in the voluntary sector and associations and projects carried by “small producers”, “who don’t necessarily know how it works” nor “how to value all the work they have put into [their projects]” [CNC agent].

  • 22 For reasons imposed by the sources, this data can only be provided for the 2007-2012 period, during (...)

15In the opinion of the users and agents interviewed, this regulatory difference made funding access more restrictive on the CNC side, and in return gave the Acsé/CGET office an image of greater accessibility for “small” producers. It was seen as a less demanding, but also less legitimate office in terms of definition of the “cinema” which public funding helped produce and distribute. Moreover, this duality was reflected in the type of project supported by the Images de la diversité commission between 2007 and 2012, with a tendency for the CNC to focus on the cinematographic domain, and in particular the more legitimate forms of feature and narrative film, while Acsé predominantly supported television projects—mainly documentaries and informational programmes (cf. Figure 2).22 This opposition between support for bigger-budget and more legitimate forms (works of fiction and of cinema) and support for forms which are often cheaper to make and are less legitimate (documentary, magazine, and television programmes), moreover, has been a site of struggle throughout the implementation of this diversity funding. We can see it in the increase in number of grants given to film and narrative features over time, and a decrease in the number of grants given to television and audiovisual documentary from 2012 (cf. Figures 4 and 5).

Fig. 2. Financial participation of supervisory institutions according to type of supported project (2007-2012)

Fig. 2. Financial participation of supervisory institutions according to type of supported project (2007-2012)

Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012).

Fig. 3. Evolution of the financial contribution of the supervisory institutions to total funding distributed each year (2007-2012)

Fig. 3. Evolution of the financial contribution of the supervisory institutions to total funding distributed each year (2007-2012)

Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012).

Fig. 4. Share of projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission by broadcast category (cinema and television) (2007-2020)

Fig. 4. Share of projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission by broadcast category (cinema and television) (2007-2020)

Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012); CNC, Images de la diversité results (2007-2020).

Fig. 5. Share of TV documentaries and narrative films among projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission (2007-2020)

Fig. 5. Share of TV documentaries and narrative films among projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission (2007-2020)

Source: CNC and Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012); CNC, Images de la diversité results (2007-2020).

Narratives at the Frontier of the Social

16This difference in the projects supported can also be found in the types of narrative that receive funding. This can be studied by means of lexicometric and thematic analysis of the synopses of films funded in the early period of the Images de la diversité commission’s activity (2007-2011; cf. Box 3). By ranking the synopses by semantic group according to frequency of words used, we see that each supervisory institution promotes different narratives associated with specific audiovisual forms. The four groups that emerge through quantitative processing—which themselves form two larger groups—mark different depictions of people, places, and stories of “diversity”, which are framed according to narrative codes specific to the genre represented (cf. Table 2).

Box 3. Categorising narratives of diversity

The results partially illustrated in this section result from the quantitative and qualitative dual processing of synopses of works funded by the Images de la diversité commission between 2007 and 2011 (no.= 677). This chronological demarcation is imposed by the sources but remains interesting, since this period corresponds to the period of application of the decree that established the commission, before its amendment in 2012. The results were obtained using two types of software: Iramuteq, which grouped synopses by similarity (co-occurrence of words); and Nvivo, which enables qualitative coding of the synopses, according to broad categories (time and place of plot, characterization, themes, narrative technique, etc.). The four major narratives presented here are therefore statistical artefacts that help organize the analysis of depictions of diversity in the synopses and identify distinguishing variables (of gender, domain, type of funding received, etc.). Moreover, it should be emphasized that this analysis focuses on synopses, that is to say, on the short plot summaries written by the producers to present the work to different audiences. It should therefore be considered less as a study of the supported works’ content than as a synthesis of professional strategies for presenting the characters, narratives, and works that have received Images de la diversité funding.

Table 2. The four major narrative groups funded by the Images de la diversité commission in its first period of activity (2007-2011)

Narrative group

Group 1

Banlieue

Group 2

Ethnic origin

Group 3

Cultural diversity

Group 4

Society

Uncategorised

Total

Share of total

17%

25%

15%

29%

14%

100%

Share of narrative films

32%

41%

2%

9%

15%

100%

Share of TV documentaries

9%

21%

20%

38%

12%

100%

Share of Acsé funding

13%

24%

17%

38%

7%

100%

Share of CNC funding

23%

32%

12%

15%

18%

100%

Share of CNC and Acsé funding

16%

21%

14%

25%

23%

100%

Most frequent words in synopses

father

mother

live

village

return

sister

get married

country

stay

decide

son

little/ younger

Algeria

meet again

Morocco

war

estate projects

(to) land

bus

white

north

true

find

separate

paper

parent

club

better

Mediterranean

mask

gang

escape

law

journey

question

diversity

tell

saint

society

social

Denis

immigration

Seine

economic

author

integration

high school

theatre

personal

discrimination

music

Africa

artist

retrace

theme

musician

concert

African

opportunity

Europe

evolve

West

portrait

witness

hip hop

voice

visible

//

//

Source: Acsé & CNC, commission reports (2007-2012); Iramuteq statistical processing.

  • 23 The terms in quotation marks are extracted from synopses or recurrences identified during quantitat (...)

17The majority of works of fiction (73%) and film projects (63%) supported by Images de la diversité were put into a first set of narratives within groups 1 and 2, which corresponded to the narratives which I have labelled “banlieue” and “ethnic origin” (cf. Table 2). These relay “diversity” from a universalizing angle, turning people’s stories of migration, their living conditions, their feelings of ambivalence, and so on, into narrative obstacles, and presenting stories of transgression, initiation, or an identity quest. These universalizing stories, covering classic themes of drama (family, the quest for self-knowledge, initiation, etc.), comprise the majority of CNC’s financial investment. They include works such as La Cité rose, Julien Abraham’s first feature film, produced by a large independent company and telling the stories of three young brothers who each react differently to their “banlieue, its violence, and its codes”23 (group 1). They also include feature films such as Neuilly sa mère, directed by Gabriel Julien-Laferrière and released in 2009, which tells the story of “Sami Benboudaoud, 14”, who, torn by fate from his “Chalon-sur-Saône social housing block” is thrown into the “hell of a bourgeois family in Neuilly-sur-Seine!” (group 2).

  • 24 Seine-Saint-Denis is a place of recurrent intrigue among the funded works. The department is indeed (...)

18A second set of stories, which brings together the majority of documentary (57%), magazine programme (88%) and television (53%) forms, plunges the viewer into a supposedly unknown reality, so that they discover the “benefits”, “issues”, and “problems” of “diversity”. This set corresponds to the narratives I label “cultural diversity” (group 3), which often depict the trajectory of artists, intellectuals, or musicians with unique migration stories. They also comprise “societal” narratives, which document the “realities” of people living in marginal French neighbourhoods, “young” people who are struggling, or the “integration” of immigrant populations in France. These narratives, rooted in specific places (school, poor neighbourhoods, Africa) and themes (music, immigration, success), account for 58% of the funding awarded by Acsé. They comprise documentaries, such as Mouss et Hakim. Origines contrôlées, by Samia Chala and Thierry Leclère, produced in 2011 by a small production company run by a film director, and telling the story of the meeting between two singers and their audience, around, among other things, “the history of Algerian immigration, a human history and a celebration” (group 3). This group also contains films such as 9/3, mémoires d’un territoire, by Yamina Benguigui, produced in 2008 by a company that she had just created, and proposing a political and social history of the department of Seine-Saint-Denis24 (group 4).

19There were, at the two offices, two different understandings of creative funding, two specific types of production and narrative to fund, and likewise two ways of defining the battle against discrimination on screen. While the CNC sought to reproduce the traditional definitions of “quality” and professional development used in its other commissions within Images de la diversité, Acsé/CGET adopted a funding system which promoted access for new professional entrants. These differentiated procedures, reflecting two opposing conceptions of the battle against discrimination, also determine different narratives of diversity, since narrative film projects supported by the CNC and the more audiovisual-orientated support offered by Acsé led to different audiovisual forms and synopses. These narratives oscillate between the universalization and the investigation of difference which characterize stories of diversity. But this duality is also reflected in analysis of the evolving profile of funded producers, which we will look at now in a third section of the article.

The Professionnalization of Diversity?

  • 25 The latter analysis will concentrate on producers whose position (for cinema at least) is most dete (...)

20Focusing on two different stages of the action of the commission—2007 (after its creation; no. of grants distributed= 163) and 2016 (when it was reformed; no. of grants distributed= 122)—I would finally like to examine the functioning and evolution of a public funding system for combating discrimination in the French audiovisual sector. Who are the beneficiaries of the Images de la diversité commission and in what ways have they evolved over time? Beyond the image promoted by the founding texts, which producers has the commission helped access public funding? Which social determinants and forms of “entry rights” can be identified in its allocation, and how have they evolved? To answer these questions, I will give an overview of the professional positions occupied by the production or distribution organizations behind the projects aided by the commission.25

Public Support for “Independent” Producers With Low Financial Resources

  • 26 The use of the idea of independence is as much a resumption of the indigenous category as it is a w (...)
  • 27 The information presented here is drawn from public sources including official company presentation (...)

21Unsurprisingly, the 285 subsidies distributed by the Images de la diversité commission in 2007 and 2016 benefited projects located in a heterogeneous social space, close to the “independent” and low-budget side of French audiovisual production.26 The production companies behind these projects are not strictly professional, since there are eleven non-profit organizations, three public administrations, and one cooperative–all supported, with two exceptions, by Acsé in 2007. Apart from these unusual beneficiaries, whose support was part of the Acsé inclusion policy and in concordance with French urban policy goals, most beneficiaries in 2007 and 2016 had production company status listed in the commercial register. These companies vary in size, but as of 2020, 60% of them have fewer than fifteen projects in their catalogue.27

22Most of these companies’ presentations, even those with more than 300 projects in their catalogue, claim an “independent” identity that is orientated towards research and dialogue with writers and filmmakers, and highlight a producer’s commitment to films that reflect a diversity of points of view and stories. This independent identity can be found in the very structure of the production companies. According to available data, more than two-thirds of these are run by their (co-)founder, who, in a quarter of cases, also directs films. Twenty-one of the 285 funded projects were even self-produced, by production companies founded by the director of the film or by a close family member (wife or daughter).

23Alongside this independence, which appears indicative of producers operating in less economically endowed areas of French audiovisual production, there is a tendency towards multiactivity or diversification of the activity of the companies behind the audiovisual projects. This multiactivity sometimes concerns the functions of the company itself (with 5% of companies aggregating the production and distribution functions, for example), but more often concerns the film and audiovisual fields. For example, 30% of companies produced or distributed, in equivalent shares, film as well as television projects. Similarly, specialization by genre (documentary, drama, magazine, experimental, series) is not the absolute rule among these companies, with 38% covering several different genres.

24These organizations thus seem to replicate, within cultural production companies, the rule of multiactivity necessary to survive in art worlds (Menger 2009: 308). They evolve, in short, in an independent fringe of French audiovisual or television production, within a sectoral “third circle” with relatively limited economic and symbolic resources (Alexander 2014), that is characterized by economic uncertainty and is on the margins of the audiovisual space (Hammou et al. 2019: 421-422). As a matter of fact, among the companies funded in 2007, 30% have since gone into liquidation, and 5% have been bought or merged into larger audiovisual groups.

“Diversity” of “Quality”? The Gradual Normalization of an Initiative for Compensation

25Despite this first general observation, the comparison between 2007 and 2016 suggests that there have been evolutions in the action of Images de la diversité. It seems to confirm previous hypotheses on the normalization of the commission and its redirection towards more legitimate practices within the French audiovisual field. Indeed, we can observe increasing professionalization of the beneficiaries of the Images de la diversité commission, which manifests in three ways. First, while multiactivity (2% of organizations funded in 2016) and diversification in gender (32%) and audiovisual domain (31%) remain present, these are down by 5, 10 and 2 percentage points respectively, when compared with organizations in 2007. Similarly, self-production in the broad sense, whether this refers to a director producing their own film and submitting it to the commission (3% of works funded in 2016), or a producer who also happens to be a director (10%), is cut by half between 2007 and 2016. Finally, the seniority of companies funded increases between 2007 and 2016, with a less than 4% presence of production companies of less than five years old, and a 10% increase in those of 10 to 30 years old. As a result, the number of projects to date per company catalogue follows a similar trend, with a decline from 20% to 12% of companies with fewer than fifty projects in their catalogue, and an increase from 3% to 9% of companies with more than 300 projects (these include two “big” independents, which combine several grants for multiple projects.) In 2016, funding for diversity therefore favoured more professional producers, who were more experienced and specialized in their area and profession than in 2007, and with a lower tendency towards multiactivity and self-production.

26Along with this trend of increasing professionalization among Images de la diversité beneficiaries, 2016 marked a return to independent cinema. The 2016 beneficiaries are more similar to the conventional recipients of CNC funding, and include fewer of the atypical producers included among the funded group in 2007. For example, non-profit organizations and public administrations have almost disappeared from the list of beneficiaries, which in 2016 included a larger number of companies specializing in the domain of cinema (+10%) and in the production of works of fiction (+16%). While the share of professional producers (producers that do not happen to also be directors) has increased, they are also more often independent, managing their own production or distribution company (+8%). One final trend reflects a geographical narrowing of the Images de la diversité commission, with funding benefiting production companies from Île-de-France (Paris and the surrounding region) in similar proportions in 2007 and 2016 (70% of funding distributed for both years); however, the geographical repartition between Paris and its suburbs changed between 2007 and 2016. In 2016, the presence of production companies located in the Parisian suburbs fell by 11% while those based in Paris increased by 9%, ultimately representing 65% of projects funded in 2016 (compared with 54% in 2007; cf. Figure 6).

Fig. 6. Distribution of companies funded per geographical location (2007 and 2016)

Fig. 6. Distribution of companies funded per geographical location (2007 and 2016)

Source: Author

  • 28 While location is not a social indicator in itself in the film sector, it has a symbolic dimension (...)

27Thus, the CNC’s takeover of the Images de la diversité commission and the unification of the administrative paths for funding applications led to a return to a stricter definition of cinematographic professionalization, characterized by specialization, seniority, and experience as a producer or distributor. This restriction was accompanied at the same time by greater support for independent production companies, leaning towards the production of film and works of fiction, two categories of activity requiring greater economic and symbolic resources than the previously favoured television and documentary productions. From a geographical standpoint, the supported companies reflect the high concentration of French audiovisual production in the Île-de-France region (with 70% of companies located in Paris or Parisian suburbs), but analysis of their evolution between 2007 and 2016 shows that they were also increasingly located in the Paris inner-city area.28 The decline in the number of production companies located in the Paris suburbs, as well as the decline in the number of self-produced and -distributed projects may thus indicate a form of closure of access to funding for less central producers of audiovisual content.

28However, in contrast to this change, the reconfiguration of the rules of access to funding has made it easier for new producers to enter. From the top, on the one hand, since the number of organizations having been supported fewer than five times by the Images de la diversité commission increased by 9% between 2007 and 2016. These new organizations presumably correspond to the oldest and most professional companies included in the statistical analysis of beneficiaries in 2016. And from the bottom, on the other hand, since the creation of the Images de la diversité writing residencies meant opening up the funding to projects in their early stages, submitted by the writers and filmmakers themselves—by “new talent”—rather than by established production companies. While this administrative novelty could show a willingness to compensate for the administrative narrowing of the Images de la diversité funding, with the unification of the CNC and Acsé desks in 2016, it could also be seen as indicative of the way in which the beneficiaries are considered by the French film public administration. The artistic dimension of the project, the strength of its administrative structure, and the merits of its candidate statement and of the graphic presentation of its application files are all elements which, besides the professional characteristics of those leading the project, count towards their distinction in the eyes of the agents and members of commission. Thus, that the opening of access to funding following the narrowing of the scheme affects a project’s upstream stages–at the writing stage–is indicative of the requirements of language, presentation, and formatting expected of a professional by the institution, as well as the effects that selection may have on the action of the Images de la diversité commission.

Conclusion

29This study seeks to be a starting point to discuss the way in which gender, race, class, and age relations are handled by actors of the art worlds, and how they structure access to resources and recognition throughout creative processes. Using the case of French public funding for the promotion of representations of diversity in the audiovisual sector, I have shown that the institutional expectations regarding funding candidates has led to a form of aesthetic and professional filtering of candidate projects. Thus, although the Images de la diversité commission was created in an effort to combat discrimination, its implementation did not necessarily mean, throughout its history, a lowering of the financial, social, or professional barriers and requirements to access French public audiovisual funding. On the contrary, the commission has followed an opposite trajectory, and has been normalized to a certain extent, supporting a growing number of experienced, prominent, and financially stable audiovisual producers.

  • 29 It should be noted that the French state’s place in systems of intermediation of film and televisio (...)
  • 30 In 2019, public funding by the CNC and regional authorities accounted for an average of 5.3% of Fre (...)

30Thus, the Images de la diversité commission case allows us to study the functioning of public funding for French audiovisual and cinematographic creation. By focusing on this funding stage, which is one of the first steps in legitimizing works proposed for production, I wished to show the relevance of taking state and public funding into account when we analyse the long chain of intermediaries that contribute to the production of audiovisual work and film value (Becker 1984; Jeanpierre & Roueff 2014; Lizé et al. 2014).29 While its contribution remains minimal within the average budget of French films30, public funding can nevertheless be considered (especially for the least economically endowed production companies) to be the first forms of peer-recognition of film quality, ultimately facilitating the production and consecration of works.

31Finally and consequently, the study of the case of the Images de la diversité commission makes it possible to examine the effects of social and professional exclusion and self-exclusion that these selection spaces produce, and their modes of selection between artistic, administrative and professional criteria. To continue the study of these effects, we should now reconcile the quantitative and qualitative approaches, focusing on the social and professional trajectories of these producers that exist at the borders, on the margins or at the centre of French audiovisual production, on their successes, their difficulties, and their material conditions of production. Linking social and professional positions to the material means of audiovisual production would not only enlighten the way symbolic hierarchies are formed, but also provide fertile ground to explore the material manifestations of race, class, and gender relations within spaces of artistic creation.

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Notes

1 The CNC is the public body responsible for the conception and implementation of French government policy in the area of film, audiovisual and the moving image. Among other things it is responsible for the policy of funding for film and television, including the allocation of production grants.

2 Public, or so-called selective, audiovisual funds imply an artistic and administrative assessment of the written application, resulting in a decision on whether to grant financial support or not. They are distinct from other CNC grants, including automatically distributed grants which are available to production companies that have previously produced a project.

3 Established in 2006, Acsé is an agency supporting those in in need of social integration and employment in the context of urban policy, and contributing towards preventive action against delinquency and discrimination. In 2014, it merged into the General Commission for Territorial Equality (CGET) and once again in 2020 into the National Agency for Territorial Cohesion (ANCT). For ease of reading, we cite Acsé/CGET to designate this second parent body of the commission during the period studied (2007-2020).

4 Decree No. 2007-181 of 9 February 2007 on the establishment of the Images de la diversité commission, Art. 1 and 3.

5 Ibid., Art. 3.

6 As it was founded on non-artistic criteria, the Images de la diversité commission stands in contrast to the more traditional grants of French film policy, awarded to projects using artistic criteria that are “purely” aesthetic, innovative, and of formal “quality” (Bourdieu, 1996: 302).

7 In France, “diversity” entered political vocabulary during the 2000s, at a time when French policies on combating discrimination were going through a transition (Bereni & Jaunait 2009). Taken from economic and employment circles, the notion made it possible to positively name “minorities” and “integration” initiatives (Simon & Escafré-Dublet 2009). Having rapidly spread into politics and business, today “diversity” encompasses several and competing meanings and areas of anti-discrimination.

8 As “diversity”, like “quality”, is posited as an issue of struggle, the use of inverted commas to designate it will cease here, for the sake of readability for the rest of the article.

9 Decree No. 2007-181 of 9 February 2007 on the establishment of the Images de la diversité commission, Art. 3.

10 Politique de la ville” (urban policy) is a set of inter-sectoral public policies aimed at reducing social and economic inequalities between French regions, and in particular in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, which are labelled “quartiers prioritaires de la politique de la ville” (urban policy priority districts, QPV).

11 Among the forty funds managed by the CNC, the only one with this type of co-management between two institutions is the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund [World cinema fund] (Lecler 2017), which aims to support foreign cinematographies. It has been co-managed with the French Institute (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) since 2012 and its operation was inspired by the Images de la diversité commission.

12 However, there is a historic reason for this dual administration since, before 2007, Acsé hosted an audiovisual commission awarding funding to works which met its political objectives. This initiative served as an institutional foundation for the creation of Images de la diversité.

13 The “2005 riots” correspond to a movement of urban revolts that began in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois following the deaths of two adolescents, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, on 27 October 2005 as they sought to escape a police interrogation. The event triggered an uprising which quickly spread to other suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis, and then throughout France, resulting in the declaration of a state of emergency on 8 November 2005.

14 With an average allocation of 2.6 million euros per year, the Images de la diversité fund remains minimal in the CNC budget, accounting for 0.32% of audiovisual funding expenditure in 2016 (CNC 2016 figures). However, it remains significant for some projects in the support it lends to small budgets.

15 For Colette Guillaumin (2016 [1992]), race is the relationship that racializes social differences, leading certain racialised groups to be “perceived as natural”. This social relation therefore relies on the “belief that this category is a material phenomenon” and is based on the naturalisation of a “socio-symbolic system of physical traits”, a “system of marks” (skin colour, language, religion, etc.) defining these social groups (Ibid.: 172).

16 Decree No. 2012-582 of 25 April 2012 relating to the Images de la diversité commission.

17 The film and animation code (general funding regulations); articles 422-1 to 422-53.

18 This new component can indeed be interpreted as paving the way for “young” film productions “that is, [those which are] closer, within the space of the fractions, to the dominated pole or to the new sectors of occupational space” (Bourdieu 2013: 202). It echoes similar initiatives by the CNC, such as Talents en court, which accompanies “emerging talent with proven artistic potential, but for whom access to the professional environment is difficult due to lack of significant training or experience”, and the Jeunes Talents prize, launched in partnership with the Images de la diversité commission and France Télévisions in 2019. Source: CNC.

19 However, the extension of diversity to components of class and age is not surprising. Its seeds were sown in the commission’s founding decree which stipulated that funding should contribute to Acsé’s mandate, which included “operations benefiting inhabitants of urban policy priority neighbourhoods”. This adjustment is therefore less of a reversal than an explication of the official definition of diversity, which is dependent on the constant reconfigurations of French urban and anti-discrimination policy.

20 [Acsé/CGET agent] and [CNC agent] are noted after interview citations with theagents responsible for administration of the commission at each institution.

21 The term is used in the commission’s 2007-2010 activity report, which distinguishes the “CNC bonus” from the Acsé funding. At this initial stage, Acsé allocations were twice as big as CNC allocations (8,208,200 euros compared with 4,365,900 euros for the 2007-2010 period), which would subsequently change.

22 For reasons imposed by the sources, this data can only be provided for the 2007-2012 period, during which the financial contribution of Acsé was the highest.

23 The terms in quotation marks are extracted from synopses or recurrences identified during quantitative or qualitative processing.

24 Seine-Saint-Denis is a place of recurrent intrigue among the funded works. The department is indeed strongly associated with French “diversity” issues: having historically welcomed a large share of immigrants into France, it now has a young population, but also remains the poorest territory in mainland France, with a poverty rate twice the national average (Insee 2020).

25 The latter analysis will concentrate on producers whose position (for cinema at least) is most determinant in the potential “success” of a film (Hammou et al. 2019: 418). Moreover, rather than their social profiles, I will instead focus on the professional position of producers on the assumption that this says more about the selection processes implemented by each institution.

26 The use of the idea of independence is as much a resumption of the indigenous category as it is a way of describing the situation of these companies among small and medium structures, opposed to the pole of “big production”, i.e. to the large groups and subsidiaries of the audiovisual industry (Bourdieu 1992; Noël & Pinto 2018).

27 The information presented here is drawn from public sources including official company presentations, professional databases such as Unifrance, Allociné, and documentary film home pages, as well as the list of companies in the commercial register.

28 While location is not a social indicator in itself in the film sector, it has a symbolic dimension (with production companies positioned following a neighbourhood logic: large subsidiaries in the west and independents in the east and north-east). This location also reflects an economic dimension, since production companies invest in real estate according to their means (Alexander 2015: 105).

29 It should be noted that the French state’s place in systems of intermediation of film and television has already begun to be explored by some sociological studies, either by integrating public funding and distribution within macro-sociological analysis of the field (Creton 2004; Duval 2006; Hammou et al. 2019), or by taking a look at certain public mechanisms or policies that support cinematographic quality (Gimello-Mesplomb 2003; Lecler 2019; Pinto 2012).

30 In 2019, public funding by the CNC and regional authorities accounted for an average of 5.3% of French-initiative film budgets (CNC results 2020).

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Table des illustrations

Légende Word cloud of most-used terms in the synopses of audiovisual works funded by the Images de la diversité commission (n=677; 2007-2011).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/docannexe/image/1135/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 337k
Titre Fig. 1. Funding distribution by project stage (2007-2020)
Légende Values for years marked with an asterisk (*) are only indicative due to incomplete sources.
Crédits Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012); CNC, Images de la diversité results (2007-2020).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/docannexe/image/1135/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 58k
Titre Fig. 2. Financial participation of supervisory institutions according to type of supported project (2007-2012)
Crédits Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/docannexe/image/1135/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 3. Evolution of the financial contribution of the supervisory institutions to total funding distributed each year (2007-2012)
Crédits Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/docannexe/image/1135/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 33k
Titre Fig. 4. Share of projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission by broadcast category (cinema and television) (2007-2020)
Crédits Source: CNC & Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012); CNC, Images de la diversité results (2007-2020).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/docannexe/image/1135/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 5. Share of TV documentaries and narrative films among projects supported by the Images de la diversité commission (2007-2020)
Crédits Source: CNC and Acsé, Images de la diversité commission reports (2007-2012); CNC, Images de la diversité results (2007-2020).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/docannexe/image/1135/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Titre Fig. 6. Distribution of companies funded per geographical location (2007 and 2016)
Crédits Source: Author
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Evélia Mayenga, « Representing “Diversity”: The Social and Professional Conditions for Accessing Public Funding in the French Audiovisual Sector »Biens Symboliques / Symbolic Goods [En ligne], 10 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2022, consulté le 07 octobre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/bssg/1135 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/bssg.1135

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Evélia Mayenga

Doctorante en science politique, CESSP, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

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