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What role did the media play in the conservative primary elections

By Clea Broadhurst

This week's International Media takes a look at the role of the media in the French primary elections and the second half of the magazine, how video games have become part of the mass media.

There's been a lot of talk - and criticism - about how the media covered the American elections.

But are the media in France any better?

This year in France, for the first time, the main right-wing party Les Républicains is holding a primary, to decide who would be its candidate in next year's presidential election.

And there's been a lot of media coverage of it - several TV debates and of course, lots of noise on social media.

"Today we're facing rapid mass circulation of information, an acceleration that can provoke a kind of hysteria in the political sphere. We now need to take into account -- the need to report every single piece of information, and the internet's reach," Arnaud Benedetti, a specialist in communications who works at the Sorbonne University in Paris, told RFI.

"This demands a much quicker response on absolutely everything from politicians. Politicians realise that visibility in the media is essential, and it's reason for their very existence, even their political survival. More than anything, this system favours speed over argument. And we're seeing that immediacy is becoming a priority for the media, which is also following this logic -- it's a logic that in turn, needs to be followed by politicians."

Benedetti says the issue today is not so much the media, but how they work.

"That's why we remember the little catch phrases, symbols, poses, way better than the political programmes themselves. However, you can ask, are the voters really fooled? Because when we take a look at the primaries... it's the man who resisted this system the most who won over the most voters."

Benedetti explains that social networks increase the public space, because they allow for a broader range of political expression.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean that they help to bring people to one political side or the other. Social networks will certainly be used, and most of the time when it comes to political activism, they will reach those people who have already been convinced. However, social networks are formidable tools when used to discredit an opponent. And undeniably, we've seen this happen during the primaries’ campaign in France, the use of social networks by people opposed to Alain Juppé, to discredit some of his positions -- to even ridicule them sometimes. So that helped Nicolas Sarkozy get more votes, but mostly François Fillon."

Another problem Benedetti points at is the fact that media rules in France need to change, so they can adapt to this new media environment.

Politicians have always needed the media. But for Benedetti, politicians and their programmes are increasingly driven by how the media will present them.

Speaking of how powerful the media is in our society today, let's now turn to our other topic for this week's magazine.

A lot of people rely quite a lot on their mobile phone, computers, TVs... to sum it up, we rely on screens.

Investigative journalist Jérôme Fritel has just released a documentary on how video games have now become mainstream media. It's called "Video Games: new masters of the World."

"Today, there's constant competition to win over people's free time, especially the time they spend in front of their screens. We see that video games have ousted cinema: the video games industry now has revenue over 100 billion dollars a year, and today, it's in direct competition with television. How much time do people spend in front of their screens? Well today, when you look at it, video games take up more of people's screen time than anything else," Fritel says.

"For example, games that anyone can put on their phone constitute more than half of all revenue for platforms like Apple or Google. So this has clearly become a mass phenomenon, and we should ask ourselves what kind of content, and what kind of messages, are being conveyed through this new type of media, this 21st century media. I think it's time we took it seriously. We shouldn't disregard it -- we need to be a little bit more demanding when it comes to their content."

Video games have come in for criticism, with some people arguing that some games encourage violent behaviour. But Fritel says we shouldn't be afraid of them.

"Video games don't encourage violence any more than movies for example. One thing for sure though, is that some governments have understood it is a major communication tool, especially when addressing young people. They've understood than rather than making a movie, maybe using a video game has more greater impact. I'm thinking of what the American army did. Right after 9/11, in order to reach out to a younger audience, and recruit new soldiers, they developed a game called "American Army"."

Fritel says the game did extremely well. The player could join the army, could chase terrorists. He explains that this game was developed on army bases where they'd usually build weapons, or defense programmes, but with this, they basically made recruitment software, a strong propaganda tool.

"Video games are no longer just about being fun, they can be used for propaganda, or education as well. Sitdowns between the White House and developers took place, during which they decided it was time to go beyond the "boom boom" aspect and make it a bit more educational, bring on more possibilities."

Younger population may be more receptive to a message if it comes through a video game, he says.

"If you want to get young people's attention, it's in your interest to use video games. These are young people who, at 21 say, have spent on average about 10 000 hours playing video games: the same amount of time spent at school. And it works, they are extremely responsive to this. Then again, you need to develop games that are interesting, fun, and that allow for the discovery of other worlds. So yes, we have to work on the message, the content, and there's room for everyone. But it's a fact that you can reach a wider public, one that might turn its back on more traditional media."

Fritel says we're facing a media overload today, and some people, young or not young, can be a bit more suspicious of traditional media.

When Fritel started to investigate this world, for his film, he said he found a universe that's definitely worth getting to know. Whether we like it or not, we are going to be more and more reliant on our screens. Because what used to be something for kids, geeks or teenagers is now mainstream media for all of us. Video games now surround us all.

You can watch the replay of the documentary here.


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