Strike targets Sarkozy’s ad ban

French broadcasters protest plan

French pubcaster staffers went on strike on Tuesday to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to scrap advertising on France Televisions’ TV and radio channels.

Unions repping 11,000 employees called the strike on the day the National Assembly began debating a bill overhauling public broadcasting. Some 40% of people working for France Televisions’ five TV webs did not report for work, disrupting skeds and news coverage.

Under the proposals, outlined earlier this year, advertising would be banned after 8 p.m. as of January and nixed entirely starting in 2011, creating a model more akin to that of the BBC.

The move will create a funding gap that will be largely filled by a levy on commercial broadcasters, Internet service providers and government coin. Culture Minister Christine Albanel said e450 million ($579.3 million) had been earmarked to compensate for the loss of advertising revenues.

However, unions and the opposition Socialists claim the changes will benefit commercial broadcasters and increase Sarkozy’s power over the media. The proposed new law would allow the government to appoint the head of France Televisions, previously chosen by broadcasting regulator the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel, placing the pubcaster under direct state control. A vote on the bill is scheduled for Dec. 9.

(Wire services contributed to this report.)

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