The Court of Auditors welcomes the progress of the INA

Paris. For once, the Court of Auditors was full of compliments in its recent report on the management of the National Audiovisual Institute (INA). It is possible that this unusual benevolence can be linked to his previous reports, which, it should be noted, were followed by effects. It was in fact in their audit of the period 2007-2014 that the magistrates of the Court had noted irregularities in the choice – without call for tenders – of service providers by the director of the INA at the time, Mathieu Gallet . The affair, which broke out when Mathieu Gallet was president of Radio-France, led to his resignation. In 2021, the Paris Court of Appeal finally sentenced him to a fine of 30,000 euros, reducing the sentence at first instance which was a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 20,000 euros. Agnès Saal, who replaced him at the head of the INA, had to resign a year later after an anonymous letter (but not a Court report) revealed the amount of his taxi bills.

Laurent Vallet.


Cleverly, Laurent Vallet (former student of ENA and graduate of HEC, a valuable double skill for an Epic), who had replaced Agnès Saal, put at the top of his pile of files to be processed a strengthening of appeal procedures of offers (this, for Mathieu Gallet) and a dieting of the management committee’s expense and taxi bills (this, for Agnès Saal). Sensitive to this recognition of their work, the wise men of rue Cambon showed an unexpected leniency towards the INA and its president. “In a few years, and while the situation preceding the arrival of Laurent Vallet was not satisfactory, the INA was able to put in place a well-structured and professional organization, aiming in particular to significantly reduce the risk of execution of its markets”, can we read in the chapter devoted to purchases. We learn that a new regulation has been put in place, that five buyers have been hired and that the annual reports are very complete. There follows a very detailed description (usually less frequent) of the purchasing procedures, before concluding that the rate of coverage of purchases by a public contract increased from 69% in 2016 (but curiously we do not know this rate for the Mathieu Gallet period) to 82% in 2022.

After devoting three pages to purchases (€47 million), the report details over five pages the question of expense and taxi reports (€1 million). He notes that Laurent Vallet’s taxi costs in 2022 amount to 1,033 euros and that his travel and restaurant costs amount to 11,892 euros. The new CEO also announced the gradual end of company cars, including for him.

Sale of audiovisual archives

Carried away in their impulse of benevolence, the magistrates take an indulgent look at the turnover (CA) of the INA. This mainly consists of the marketing of the audiovisual archives of the former ORTF and public channels (“Apostrophes” by Bernard Pivot, “7 sur 7” by Anne Sinclair (see ill.), the soap opera “Les Saintes Chéries”, but also films), either in a raw form or in an editorialized form, that is to say by producing content based on archives. In 2022, this turnover amounted to 33.8 million euros, a figure up 19% compared to 2015, or an annual average of 2.7%. An actually positive rate for mature consumer goods (such as automobiles or food), but very low for digital. By comparison, turnover in France for video on demand (VOD) increased fivefold during the same period. The INA’s general public platform, called “Madelen”, has only 55,000 subscribers despite a low subscription (€2.99 per month). There is room for improvement.

Room for improvement? Not necessarily. From there, the magistrates put on their usual glasses and worry about “points of weakness”. Anticipating that the INA’s raw material (television production) will decline due to the rise in power of the platforms, the magistrates indicate that the INA must find growth drivers. Easier said than done ! And it is not on the side of its continuing training activities (for employees of public audiovisual groups) or research, whose turnover, stagnant or decreasing, was 6.7 million euros in 2022, that the INA will find these growth drivers.

This while its costs increase. The INA in fact employs more than 1,000 people, not only assigned to its commercial activity. Epic (public establishment of an industrial and commercial nature) assumes public service tasks such as the legal deposit of publications on audiovisual media such as websites. Its expenses amount to 147 million euros in 2022. If it manages to maintain a positive operating result (€300,000 in 2022), it is thanks to its public subsidy which amounts to 92 million euros, or 62% of its expenses.

Savings are possible, in particular by eliminating regional delegations and continuing to rationalize the real estate portfolio, but they remain marginal compared to the declining business model of the INA. Curiously, the Court did not request analytical accounting by major activity of the INA and it did not question the workload and the relevance of the number of its employees, 1,000 (except to mention that they only work 33 hours 50 minutes per week).

The Court of Auditors has obviously not ruled on the proposed merger between radio and public broadcasting recently put back on the table by the Minister of Culture, Rachida Dati. In June 2023, the Senate adopted a bill recommending the regrouping of France Télévisions, Radio France, France Médias Monde and the INA. Previous minister Rima Abdul Malak opposed this initiative. But last February, Rachida Dati publicly announced that she was going to take up this bill from the senators. If the minister goes through with it, the destiny of the National Audiovisual Institute will take a completely different path.

Similar Posts