Protesters just in

Gallic showbizzers take over news studio

PARIS — One hundred striking Gallic showbiz workers took over a studio at paybox Canal Plus on Thursday, halting live news broadcasts in their continuing protest of cuts to their unemployment benefit. The group has made no move to leave the studio.

Carrying signs referring to their threatened action at Cannes next week, about 100 showbiz workers stormed the Paris headquarters of Canal Plus’ web I-TV at noon and headed straight for the studio where a live mid-day news program was running.

The anchorwoman gave up her place to a woman who began to read a statement protesting Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres’ E20 million ($24.3 million) emergency fund to help media workers cope with the cuts before the paybox replaced the program with a taped show.

I-TV spokeswoman Anne Quemin said it was unclear how long the protesters intended to occupy the building.

“They’re here smoking their cigarettes and keeping us from shooting any news programs,” said Quemin. “We have no way to provide Canal Plus with any live news as it stands now. We’re not sure exactly what their intentions are, except keeping us from getting our work done.”

Meanwhile, Donnedieu de Vabres again appealed to the part-time workers not to disrupt the Cannes fest, which opens Wednesday.

“Cannes is a very important event for cultural and artistic activities in our country,” the minister said on French radio. “Even those who savagely disagree with me — and they have the right to do so — should be responsible enough not to paralyze the festival, because that would be a catastrophe for cultural employment, which is something we all want to defend.”

The culture czar said that he didn’t want his remarks to be perceived as an ultimatum, underlining the fragility of the negotiations between the government and the workers.

“We have no desire to make threats,” said Jean Voirin, the secretary general for one the largest showbiz unions, echoing the minister’s comments. But he added that “the Cannes festival can not carry on as usual.”

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the minister, unions and workers committees at France’s National Assembly, Voirin said mobilization was the workers’ only means of protesting the unemployment benefits cuts.

“We will not back down from the possibility of action. We’re going to make sure that at the Cannes festival there will be echoes of this conflict and blockage,” Voirin said, adding that the workers will “respect the films, the directors, the technicians and the artists because that’s part of our responsibility.”