FollowingSunday's announcement of merger negotiations between rival satellite platformsTPS and Canal Plus, France's writers, directors, producersassociation (ARP) has called for careful reflection by the government beforeallowing such a marriage.

In a pressrelease, ARP stressed the importance of meeting with government officials inorder to "reinforce the conditions of maintenance and development ofindependent film production."

Canal Plusis France's largest investor in local films while bothCanal Plus and TPS have broadcast authority-imposed obligations to fund thelocal industry. They must each pony up 9% of their revenues annually to acquireFrench films. ARP's fear is that should the two joinforces, the industry will face the "risks of monopoly and deregulation."

MichelGomez, general manager of ARP feels that while the government needs to bevigilant, there is sense in Canal Plus and TPS being folded into one company,"There is a certain logic that says that in a context undergoing total change[the arrival of digital terrestrial television and telecom companies on the TVlandscape] it's important to have a strong player who respects obligations."

However,Gomez also cautions, "This does put pluralism in the balance leading theindustry to be Canal Plus dependent, if you will. The biggest concern is whatwill happen during the transition period where there is sure to be a sort ofair pocket."

A possibleunion between the Canal Plus and TPS platforms has been mulled several timesover the years though the latter has been wary of proceeding. An arch rivalrybetween the two has been at the source as well as TF1 chairman Patrick Le Lay'srumored reticence to bargain as the weaker. Terrestrial networks TF1 and M6jointly own TPS. Canal, controlled by VivendiUniversal, boasts just over 3 million subscribers and TPS about half thatfigure.

Films havebeen fiercely fought over by the two but the general consensus in the industryis that following a fusion, studio catalogues won't be affected and will stillcommand the same prices. Another belief is that the government could imposehigher spending requirements on a single platform operator. In fact, the reallosers could be the ball players: Canal Plus and TPS have had to jockey forposition in the battle over French soccer rights sending prices skyrocketing.