This article was originally published in the GALA
Gazette, Volume III, Issue II.
Declaration of the French President triggers strike of the
French Public TV Channels
The First Major Strike since 1974:
In 1974 the French President, Jacques Chirac, announced
that the public Agency of the French Radio and Television
(ORTF, "Office de la Radio et de la
Télévision Française") was going to
be broken up into seven independent companies, which included
the French public TV Channels and Radio (in particular what is
now "France Télévisions", i.e., France
2, France 3, France 4, France 5 and RFO, as well as "Radio
France", the French public radio). This announcement gave
rise to significant strikes.
On January 8, 2008, when the current President, Nicolas
Sarkozy, announced that he envisaged a total ban on the
advertising on the French public TV channels, most of the
representatives of the French TV channels, as well as the trade
unions of the public audiovisual sectors, were very
Then, the surprise made way for anxiety/anger from the
parties concerned: how to find approximately 1.2 billion euros
(800 millions euros of lost advertising proceeds, in addition
to the cost borne by the public TV channels for the creation of
TV programs destined to replace the banned advertising)?
On February 12, 2008, the trade unions of the public
audiovisual sector have been invited to address the issues of
the reform of the audiovisual public service with the Deputy
Director ("Directeur Adjoint") of the
Department of the Culture and the Communication.
The representatives of this Department ensured the trade
unions that the aim of this reform is not to reduce the scope
of action of the public channels. They also guaranteed that
there will be no privatization of the public TV channels and
that the loss generated by the ban on advertising will be
While the French Government refuses to increase the TV tax
("redevance audiovisuelle"), which is paid
by all French people owning a TV set and which goes to the
French public TV channels, it is, however, working on other
ways to compensate such loss of sales: for instance, through
the taxation of the mobile phones and Internet access and
service providers (since they generate a lot of profits thanks
to the new technology activities), or through an increase in
the taxes paid by the private TV channels.
However, the trade unions are not satisfied with this
approach: they consider that Mr. Sarkozy's
announcement, which is likely to throw the public audiovisual
sector into confusion, should have been presented with a
precise financial plan.
While the public TV channels and radios clearly disapproved
this planned reform, the French President had a commission set
up to work on defining a new public television and its
financing, with a deadline at the end of May 2008 for a
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