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Lessons Learned from FIPSE Projects II - September 1993

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The Satellite Development Project in French Language and Culture: France-TV Magazine


The project had four goals: 1) to fill the need in French language and area studies for culturally authentic, lively materials received in the classroom in a continuing fashion; 2) to create a model of television satellite-assisted instruction that would foster a communication approach to the teaching of foreign languages; 3) to produce and distribute nationwide and on a monthly schedule supporting instructional materials; and 4) to disseminate this high tech instructional system in such a way as to make it financially self-supporting.

Project Activities

The medium through which these purposes are carried out is France-TV Magazine, a cooperative effort of France 2, the leading French TV public network; Mediane Films, a small production company; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). The 60-minute satellite-transmitted television program consists of major news stories of the past month assembled from the network's broadcasts, and features on contemporary France and Europe. The magazine appears monthly during the academic year. The broadcasts are accompanied by a study guide and teaching resources assembled by a team of UMBC staff and school teachers.

In the second year of the project, marketing and distribution, including both print and diskette versions of the instructional support materials, were taken over by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Soon after, secondary distributors (for example, Sat Link in Missouri and station WIZ in Cleveland), started to set up local computer bulletin boards (BBS) listing program updates and providing a medium for the exchange of pedagogical ideas.

The TV Magazine and support materials were made available in a variety of versions and in a number of different formats. They could, for instance, be obtained in libraries and in a home video form.

Innovative Features

The project is unusual in its provision of current authentic materials supported by at least 65 pages of instructional text per program, thus constituting a unique language and culture video "textbook." France-TV Magazine has also developed a practical "step-by-step" video-based pedagogy specially designed for immediate use in the classroom. Widely distributed, the France-TV Magazine concept has reached quite a remarkable viewership. Indeed, in 1993, France-TV Magazine is in use in well over 200 colleges and universities, resulting in an estimated half-million viewers annually. Secondary school students in 200 cities in 35 states have access to the program, as does the general viewing audience for the PBS affiliates and cables carrying the program. The overall potential audience has been estimated at over 70 million viewers.


Teacher responses and ratings have been gathered systematically regarding 1) the situations in which France-TV Magazine has been used, 2) the features of the program that have been selected and 3) the aspects of language learning on which the material has had the most influence.

It was found, for instance, that only short video segments (no more than four minutes) should be used in the foreign language classroom. Subjects dealing specifically with youth: lifestyles, issues, etc., and the French educational system were in demand, and they were therefore enhanced in the program. The questionnaires also included the evaluation of technical aspects of the program such as the quality of picture and sound reception. Students have not been asked to rate the materials. However, each innovation in France-TV Magazine's pedagogical approach has been carefully tested in the classroom before being integrated in the support materials. The acute emphasis on the importance of contextualization and preview activities was a result of these in situ experiments.

The continued involvement of PBS and the System's efforts to make France-TV Magazine a self-supporting operation are a strong endorsement of the quality of the work and its real usefulness to a broad audience.

Project Impact

The video magazine has had its greatest utilization in classes at the intermediate and advanced levels. It provides authentic materials which help students understand how the language is used in France today in its fully nuanced form, teaching not only the content of the culture but reinforcing the idea of language as both a cultural artifact and a carrier of culture. Thus, the materials have proven an extremely valuable support for principles and strategies of language teaching that are rapidly becoming the norm in the foreign language classroom.

The electronic Bulletin Board Service, originally intended as the medium of distribution for the pedagogical materials, has become instead a means of conveying information about future programs and allowing users to exchange ideas, organize conferences, and trade teaching tips. The pedagogical materials are now available as print materials and IBM compatible diskettes.

The goal of making the service self-supporting was finally reached in 1992 when UMBC took over the distribution of videocasettes and was able to retain all the income from that source rather than sharing it with PBS. In order to reduce the cost of the magazine service and thus expand the audience, some specially produced cultural material had to be dropped. Target segments in all levels were developed as user samples.

Major Insights and Lessons Learned

The growing use of France-TV Magazine at a full range of colleges and universities and at over 1,000 schools reached through 327 PBS affiliates nationwide has demonstrated the need for such a program. Over the years, however, authentic materials have proven to be most valuable only if carefully selected and accompanied with support materials.

In order to make France-TV Magazine self-supporting, a leaner, less high tech version than the original project was developed to keep down costs and expand the audience.

France-TV Magazine is now the official program of the Delegation Generale a la Langue Francaise in Paris. Since the production is now entirely funded by the Ministere des Affaires etrangeres, the program is distributed to all French cultural services, in more than one hundred countries, and is present on the five continents. The program is being aired in both Americas, Japan, Tanzania, the former USSR and throughout Europe, just to name a few countries. Negotiations are still taking place in Paris to widen even further France-TV Magazine's audience.


France-TV Magazine won two red ribbon awards at the 32nd and 34th annual American Film and Video Festival in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Available Information

Information about satellite reception for colleges, universities and high schools is available from:

PBS Adult Learning Satellite Service
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, VA 22314

Information about pre-recorded videocasettes is available from:

France-TV Magazine
AC-IV, Room 146
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Baltimore, MD 21228-5398
1-800-992-3788 or 410-455-2963

General information about the project is available from:

Claud Du Verlie
Department of Modern Language and Linguistics
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
5401 Wilkens Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21228

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Last Modified: 02/22/2006