Strike hits TV, radio in France

State-owned stations affected

PARIS — The majority of programming on state run TV and radio webs in France was canceled or severely curtailed on Wednesday as the result of the second one-day strike in four months.

Employees from France Televisions, Radio France, Radio France Internationale, the National Audiovisual Institute and local staffers from international broadcaster TV5 Monde were asked to stop work and take part in an afternoon demonstration in Paris.

A statement issued jointly by representatives of the 10 unions involved expected a bigger turnout than the estimated 15,000 workers who participated in a 24-hour walkout on Feb. 13 — the biggest labor dispute to hit the French public broadcasting sector in 34 years.

The strike comes on the same day as the final plenary session of the parliamentary committee in charge of finding new ways to fund French public TV and radio broadcasting in the face of advertising restrictions set to be introduced gradually in September next year.

The committee will submit its full report and recommendations to President Nicolas Sarkozy on June 25.

Under current plans, all advertising on French pubcasters will be eliminated by early 2012.

A poll released on June 15 conducted by media regulator Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel indicated that 56% of the 954 respondents were “somewhat” or “very” pessimistic about the future of public broadcasting services.

“Believe it or not, I do have colleagues who think that (an advertising-free public broadcasting sector) could work,” said Brett Kline, a staff journalist at RFO, a France Televisions-controlled network of radio and TV stations broadcasting mainly to French overseas departments and territories. “But no one I talk to thinks that the present proposals from the government could work.”

“The Sarkozy government keeps citing the BBC as an example of state-run broadcasting with no, or minimal ad revenue,” he said. “But BBC World and BBC America now have plenty of advertising. They are citing a 1980s or 1990s model of the BBC, not the one that now exists.”

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