The CSA (French broadcasting watchdog), which counts among its missions the responsibility for protecting and regulating the use of French on television and radio, has requested that television channels make more of an effort to give their shows French titles. If an English title is used, the CSA recommends an accompanying translation into French.
This is the latest manifestation of a futile ongoing battle against la surabondance de termes anglais ou anglicisés à la télévision et à la radio. In the firing line are a whole host of mostly Endemol-produced reality TV shows with names like ‘Star Academy’, ‘Loft Story’, ‘Popstars’ and ‘Fear factor’.
Oddly these do not have the same English names as their UK/US equivalents. ‘Star Academy’ is known as ‘Fame Academy’ in the UK. ‘Loft Story’ was the French version of ‘Big Brother’ (after three seasons of ever-declining ratings the format was scrapped and consigned to the audiovisual graveyard, although Loana – the pneumatic bimbo who got laid in the swimming pool during the first week of season one – seems to be a permanent feature of the Paysage Audivisuel Français).
Are we about to see a new tendancy emerging in French programme naming – the Attack of the Colon? Star Academy: l’Ecole des vedettes? Fear factor: le facteur de la peur? An amusing article in Libération points out that the literal translation of “Loft Story’ would give us the following catchy title: ‘Loft Story: Une histoire de local a usage commercial ou industriel amenage en local d’habitation’.
Probably not. The CSA is not actually planning to use its power to sanction TV production companies who do not toe the line. TF1 have already made a statement to the effect that Star Academy, the show responsible for inflicting Jennifer and Nolwenn on the French pop music scene, will not undergo a name change.
The English titling phenomenon is not limited to made-in-France reality/junk TV shows. Quality programmes imported from the USA tend to be broadcast nowadays using their original titles. ‘Nip/Tuck’, ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’ (coming soon on Canal+) are examples which immediately spring to mind. Personally, I’m thankful for this, as if they had been renamed I probably wouldn’t have noticed they were on at all. It took me long enough to work out that ‘Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir’ = ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Deux Flics à Miami” = ‘Miami vice’.
If these programs had been re-baptised, I suspect the result would have looked something like this:
Nip/Tuck – Les Docteurs Troy et McNamara: chirurgiens esthétiques
Six Feet Under – La famille Fisher: entrepreneurs de pompes funèbres
Unimaginative indeed, but you only have to look at the number of French programmes in circulation featuring the name/job title of the protagonist in their title (‘Les Cordier, juge et flic’, ‘L’instit’, ‘Navarro’) to see a pattern emerging.
The CSA is worried that the use of English words in TV programme titles devalues French language and culture, making programmes with French titles seem inferior or old-fashioned in comparison.
Personally, I can’t help thinking that the CSA is missing the point. Perhaps more attention needs to be paid to the quality of French TV production itself, and not simply the language of titles. Why are so many shows and reality TV formats being imported, I wonder? Could it possibly be *whispers* that home-grown productions are actually Not Very Good?