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French strikes hit entertainment biz

Conditions difficult in gridlocked cities

Gaul’s escalating strikes over pension rights are now hitting the entertainment industry.

This week, the largest union of film and television workers, the SNTPCT, is set to join a host of sectors in work stoppages, including transport unions, postal and telco workers, lawyers and judges.

The strikes have already been unkind to the box office, with some distribs estimating that as much as 30% of their business has been lost since buses and trains ground to a halt last Wednesday.

“Black November,” as it’s called here, has also seen opera singers and stagehands mobilizing to protect their pension rights.

Meanwhile, the strikes have had ripple effects. The transport stoppage has snarled Paris traffic, making it tough for crews to deliver the news.

“It’s been difficult,” said Brett Kline, a reporter at pubcaster France Televisions’ RFO. “We’ve all missed important press conferences. And, obviously, camera crews can’t travel by public transport.”

Problems start even before staffers get to work. While employees at news network France 24 have been arriving eventually at the suburban Paris HQ, it’s been an ordeal. “Some have been getting up at 6 a.m. to make it in for 9,” said new media editor-in-chief Derek Thomson.

Once at work, there’s been no shortage of action for the news crews to cover, with motorcycle taxis getting staffers around the immobilized city. Student demonstrations, such as the recent violent clash with police in the suburb of Nanterre, have figured prominently in the coverage. France 24 is even offering an interactive online “strike survival guide.”

France 24 staffers are members of three unions, including the Syndicat National des Journalistes, but whether they will strike is undecided. “We’ve covered the strikes but haven’t really discussed it,” said Thomson.

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