Canal Plus staff stage protest

CANNES — French broadcasting watchdog, the Conseil Superieur d’Audiovisual, will hear ousted Canal Plus topper Pierre Lescure’s case Thursday morning, in the continuing saga that pits the paybox against Jean-Marie Messier, the chairman of Canal Plus parent, Vivendi Universal.

In the wake of an emergency CSA meeting Wednesday, prexy Dominique Baudis informed journalists that he wanted to clarify the facts surrounding Messier’s firing of Lescure and the replacing of the vet TV exec with ex-TF1 general manager Xavier Couture.

Baudis said he will also meet with Messier but did not specify when.

Baudis said that Canal Plus’s broadcasting license can be revoked if there are substantial changes in the channel’s management or financial structure. He added that the CSA is still waiting for Messier to respond to its request last January that VU reveal what percentage of its stock is held by non-European shareholders.

MK2 topper, Marin Karmitz, speaking as the president of the National Federation of French Distributors, told Daily Variety, “The CSA must tighten the surveillance around Canal Plus and make sure they respect their accords with the cinema. They must also be very attentive to who posseses the capital of Canal Plus.”

Karmitz added that the sacking of Lescure illustrates Messier’s lack of comprehension about how the TV industry functions.

“Messier confuses the water distribution industry with the audiovisual industry where a channel’s human element and talent is primordial,” Karmitz observed. “Messier has replaced an extremely talented man with someone whose talent is less recognized. It’s like replacing a star with a supporting actor.”

Lescure said in an interview on French radio Wednesday that he was mistaken in thinking he could work with Messier.

Canal Plus employees, reeling from Lescure’s dismissal, held a staff meeting Wednesday, but neither Lescure nor his lieutenants, attended. Canal Plus union leader Gerard Chollet rallied co-workers to fight.

“It’s not only Pierre Lescure’s head we have to save, it’s all our heads,” he proclaimed.

Between 500 and 1000 Canal Plus employees staged a protest rally Wednesday in front of the Vivendi Universal Paris headquarters. Staffers cheered Lescure who arrived on foot and entered the headquarters for a meeting with the supervisory board.

Another rally, which has been endorsed by the first deputy mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is planned for Saturday.

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