Emmanuel Macron has promised to scrap the French television licence fee if he is re-elected as president next month, prompting questions over the funding and independence of public television and radio.
In the first public appearance of his election campaign, Macron told voters in Poissy, outside Paris, that scrapping the broadcasting licence fee made sense since he aimed to continue lowering taxes.
Macron mentioned ending the licence fee of €138 (£115) a year, which is paid by about 27m homes as part of a drive to help the increasing numbers of French people who are worried about making ends meet. The UK colour TV licence is £159.
Politicians on the left warned scrapping the licence fee would leave French public broadcasting at the whim of government budget decisions.
The Socialist senator David Assouline tweeted that the implications would be "serious" for the independence of public media and amounted to "dangerous demagoguery".
The Socialist presidential candidate Anne Hidalgo said scrapping the licence fee would "kill" the independence of public media, weaken public broadcasters in the face of growing private monopolies and "open the door to privatisation".
She said she would keep a licence fee but make it "fairer".
The centrist senator Catherine Morin-Desailly complained that Macron had not waited for a major public report on the issue of state media funding, which is due to give its conclusions in June.
The government spokesperson Gabriel Attal sought to play down fears in an interview with the public radio station France Inter, saying: "We need a strong public media."
He said the government would continue to guarantee state broadcasters' financing, independence and visibility in the long term. Macron did not expand on how public broadcasting would be funded.
Presidential candidates on the right had already announced they intended to scrap the licence fee, including Valérie Pécresse who is running for Nicolas Sarkozy's party, Les Républicains.
The right-wing Marine Le Pen, has long said she wants to ditch the licence fee and privatise public television and radio in mainland France.
The right-wing former TV pundit Éric Zemmour has also vowed to scrap it and accused Macron of copying him.
"The way he's copying my manifesto, he'll soon be suggesting ending immigration," Zemmour said on Twitter.
Christophe Castaner, a close Macron ally and head of the parliamentary grouping of Macron's party, said there was a "huge difference" between Macron's proposals and those of Le Pen and Zemmour.
"They both want to scrap public-service broadcasting,"
Castaner said, adding that Macron, by contrast, was "very attached to public-service broadcasting". But he said the licence fee "is an unfair and archaic tax today".
Roch-Olivier Maistre, the head of France's media watchdog, Arcom, said no candidate had yet detailed how to fund public service broadcasting without a licence fee.
He said there must be a mechanism that allowed for "long-term funding and stability" as well as "visibility and independence".