One million rally against Sarkozy plan

PARIS — Gallic TV programming was disrupted and radio stations ditched news for music Thursday as some 1 million public sector employees went on a one-day strike to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s crisis recovery plan to save the tanking economy.

Hundreds of France Televisions journalists and technicians joined teachers, lawyers, judges, postal, rail and subway workers and utility company employees on the strike, coined Black Thursday.

The pubcaster staffers were also marking their discontent over broadcasting reform, which, among other things, nixes advertising on France Televisions’ TV channels and allows the government to appoint its president for the first time.

Many news programs were hit, including the 1 p.m. newscasts on France 2 and France 3. France 3’s primetime talkshow “Ce Soir ou jamais” was replaced by a film.

Several radio stations played music rather than their usual content. At Radio France Intl., the Gallic equivalent to the BBC World Service, about 30% of employees did not go to work, protesting the pending layoffs of 206. The 30% figure was questioned by the local branch of the French Union of Journalists, which claimed 60% did not turn up for work.

The strike came the day after pubcaster unions won small victories. The National Assembly unanimously agreed with the Senate’s proposal to increase the license fee that funds the pubcaster in line with inflation, pushing the annual fee up slightly from €116 ($150) to $153 this year and to $155 in 2010.

It also denied the government the power to sack France Televisions’ president.

It’s the second time this month that France Televisions’ staffers have gone on strike to protest Sarkozy’s pubcasting reforms. On Jan. 6, some 40% of all employees did not report to work to fight the post-8 p.m. ban on advertising on France 2, 3, 4 and 5 and radio station RFO.

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