In general, I like French TV now that I better understand the language.
I find it a window into French culture. It has taught me that the French
really like documentaries and news magazines. They like learning about
other cultures and peoples; documentaries from and about the world
are very common.
A lot of French TV is imported, mostly from the US, but this has not
meant that French TV has lost it Frenchness. You can still find a lot of
original programming, mostly thanks to, the strong commitment to
publicly-owned TV. With TNT it is possible to watch French TV in English.
Here is a review of the seven channels that can be picked up on French
television without cable.
TF1 - Private channel founded in 1987, is the most watched in
France. It is actually the heir of the first TV channel, created
in the mid fifties. Its stock did a dot com-like crash when the
French national football team made an early exit at the 2002 world
cup. Tf1 held the TV rights to that world cup and the rights to
the next one in 2006.
A lot of TF1's programs are much like those in the English
speaking world; for example "Qui veut gagner des millions ?
"(Who wants to be a millionaire?), Survivor and numerous reality
shows are its daily fair, along with movies.
France2/France3 - Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference
between France2 and France3. Both are public stations that
receive most of their budget through a 115-euro TV tax that all
television owners in France must pay. One positive effect is that
both France2 and France3 have fewer commercials than the
In general, France2 is more national in scope and has little, if
any, local programming. France3, on the other hand, programs a
great deal of local news and public interest shows. It even has
news broadcasts in languages other than French. For example, on
France 3 Alsace there is a nightly 15-minute news broadcast
Rund Um in Alsacien. France2 - France3
Canal+ - This cable channel shows a limited amount of
programming 'en clair'; that is, viewable by all not just those
that pay. It has a wide range of programming, sports, news,
movies, and comedy, most of it with a hip demeanor. Canal Plus
Arté - Public cultural channel in partnership with the
German government, most programming consists of documentaries and
movies from the world over. Only broadcasts after 6 pm, as Arté
shares the same channel as France5. Also receives a large part
of its funding through the TV tax.
France5 - Shows just about nothing but documentaries and news
magazines; it only broadcasts during the day. Also receives a
large part of its funding through the TV tax.
M6 - Probably the most Americanized of any French station,
showing a wide range of American films, sitcoms and dramas with
some reporting shows sprinkled in. Station markets to a younger
TV5MONDE - Note from a reader: You should know that TV5MONDE is available on cable in France. It is useful for those learning the language, but also as a time shift device for viewing French programs such as the news, which are broadcast later in the day or week. It also features sub-titles on many programs and films. The web site also features a dictionary and translator.