The seven-part 2019 American television series “The Loudest Voice” on Roger Ailes, the mastermind behind the rise of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News into a powerhouse of right-wing politics in the US, found an avid viewer in France: billionaire Vincent Bollore.

The series resonated with the French media baron, a person close to him said. Bollore has taken his own CNews TV channel sharply to the right by tapping into the formula that’s paid off handsomely for Murdoch — catering to conservative audiences deemed to be under-served by the mostly left-leaning mainstream media. As Bollore takes that winning blueprint to his ever-expanding media empire, he’s being dubbed the “French Murdoch.’’

Armed with more than 12 billion euros ($12.2 billion), Bollore, 70, is beefing up his media presence across Europe and beyond. His holding company, Bollore SE — a sprawling 20 billion-euro conglomerate that effectively controls media giant Vivendi, with its film and TV company Canal+, news channel CNews and Hachette, the world’s third-largest publishing house — is adding operations in news, magazines, pay-TV, cinema and broadcast. Best known in France as an uncompromising corporate raider, Bollore says his media strategy is driven purely by business metrics. But many see a deeply conservative ideological agenda.   

“While Rupert Murdoch always acknowledged he was pursuing ideological goals on top of business, Bollore is well known as a Catholic, a conservative, but was not engaged in an ideological fight,” says Alain Minc, Bollore’s one-time business adviser who has now parted ways with him. “He has recently switched.”

Bollore turned down requests for an interview on his media operations, while Vivendi declined to comment on the billionaire’s plans for the group’s expansion.

Like Murdoch, who began by rattling the power structure in his native Australia, Bollore waded into the French political arena during the presidential election in April, with his media machine backing Eric Zemmour, an anti-immigrant, ultra-right candidate. Zemmour campaigned to keep France firmly rooted in its Catholic heritage and touted the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, a radicalized view that white Christians are being supplanted by Muslim immigrants from Africa and elsewhere. Although he was knocked out of the first round of the elections, coming in a distant fourth, Zemmour’s views have found their way into the political conversation in France — thanks in no small part to Bollore’s influential media outlets, where they got ample airing.

Zemmour, who was a panelist on Bollore’s CNews before running for president, said in a TV interview that the billionaire “is very aware of the danger of civilization that’s threatening us, of the replacement of civilization. He wants to bequeath to his children and grandchildren the France that was bequeathed to him.”

Although Bollore has yet to make inroads in the political arena outside his home market of France — like Murdoch did in the UK and the US — the French billionaire is finding other ways to influence the social discourse in Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

Not unlike Murdoch’s News Corp, which over the decades brought its cultural products to over 100 countries, Bollore is weaving together assets that can carry immense influence in the markets he serves. Since taking over control of Vivendi’s struggling film and TV arm Canal+ about six years ago, he has made it a Netflix-like platform and bought rivals in Europe, Africa and Asia, giving it almost 24 million subscribers in over 40 countries — as many as Sky, the British peer founded by Murdoch and bought by Comcast for $39 billion in 2018.

Bollore has entered the same segments that at one point gave News Corp its media breadth, everything from film production and distribution, TV and broadcasting, advertising, newspapers and magazines to books and music. Like the Murdoch empire’s tendency to support right-wing ideologies and promote conservative ideas, there’s an active tilt toward “God and country’’ at the media taken over by Bollore.

As he expands into markets like Austria, Belgium, Poland and other countries in Europe, the traditionalist turn at his media outlets in France may show what lies ahead for his international platforms. Conservative programing has crept into the channels of the once-iconoclastic Canal+. In addition to far-right leaning debates, CNews now live-streams a Catholic mass on religious holidays. On C8, a general channel under Canal+, a controversial anti-abortion film “Unplanned” was broadcast at prime time last year despite opposition from President Emmanuel Macron’s minister for women’s rights.

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