Staffers from NextRadioTV, the French media group owned by Patrick Drahi’s Altice, went on a 24-hour strike on June 24 to protest the company’s plans to trim one-third of its workforce.
NextRadioTV, which was founded by Alain Weill, comprises France’s most watched news channel BFM TV, the radio station RMC and the documentary-focused TV channel RMC Découverte. The company announced on June 17 its intention to ax between 330 and 380 full-time staffers, representing about 30% of its permanent workforce. Citing the disastrous impact of the coronavirus crisis on advertising revenues, NextRadioTV also said it cut by 50% its freelance commissions.
With many of its employees on strike, the programming of BFM TV was disrupted on June 24, notably the anticipated debate with candidates of the municipal election, whose second round is on Sunday. The current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was first to pull out, explaining she “could not close (her) eyes on the situation of employees (and wished) to respect their right to strike,” according to Le Figaro newspaper. The debate has been postponed to Thursday.
The pending cuts at NextRadioTV are part of a larger layoff plan announced by Altice in May. Aside from these measures, NextRadioTV has also shut down its channel RMC Sport News on June 2. The cancellation and postponing of many major sports events has surely hit the business of dedicated pay TV channels such as RMC Sport News.
Employees were marching in front of BFM’s office in Paris on June 24 with signs reading “Drahison,” a play on “Drahi” and “trahison,” the French word for treason. They argued Altice had the financial resources to ride out the storm without having to resort to such a massive layoff plan, and said he was betraying journalists who had worked around the clock to cover the pandemic.
“We are in a group that is financially healthy. NextRadioTV, its 120 million in annual revenue, including 77 million in net earnings. We are part of the Altice group (which posted €2.6 billion in operating) profits in 2019,” Anne Lebrun, the labor guild representative at NextRadioTV, told the news outlet Radio France. Lebrun also pointed out that “BFM TV scored ratings records during the lockdown and remained number one.”
Drahi is also the controlling shareholder of Altice USA, which comprises the cable operators Suddenlink and Cablevision and the digital news operation Cheddar.