Why TV and radio stations are on strike in France

Prospective merger of public broadcasters faces fierce backlash

Staff at France Télévisions and Radio France are concerned that the merger could affect their jobs
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Staff at France’s major public broadcasting groups are on strike over government plans to merge their services into a media giant.

The France Télévisions and Radio France groups are striking on May 24 (and also held strike action on May 23) alongside staff from the Ina (Institut national de l'audiovisuel) and France Médias Monde (which includes RFI and France24).

The strike affects major national and regional broadcasters including France 3 and FranceBleu, with both providing local and regional news that is otherwise often overlooked by private broadcasters.

The strike is expected to continue into next week if the merger talks go ahead, say union bosses. 

The prospective merger was set to be debated in parliament on May 28, but this has been postponed due other bills, including the agricultural bill, taking precedence.

“Why commit to a merger that promises to be long, complex, anxiety-provoking for employees, and with no real editorial objective?” said one union group representing France Télévisions staff members.

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16,000 employees affected

The merger would see the groups combined into one major public broadcasting service along with certain other media that fall under the same category,

It would allow the various groups to “share their strengths”, said Culture Minister Rachida Dati, who is spearheading the change. 

If her plans go ahead, a joint holding company would be used for all of the services from January 2025, with them merging in 2026. 

Indeed, the joint company already exists, having been created when similar schemes were planned in the past, but ultimately fell through.

"It’s ten years now that parliament and the senate have been calling in unison for this reform,” said Renaissance MP Quentin Bataillon on Radio France on May 22. “We know that the status quo is untenable.”

The influence of the internet - and social media in particular - are threats to the current model, said Mr Bataillon.

“We have to reform public broadcasters quickly to make them stronger and not take anything away from them”

The prospective group created by the merger would be called ‘France Médias’ and have an annual budget of around €4billion, according to Ms Dati.

Up to 16,000 employees in the sector may see their jobs affected by the changes, with those working in radio particularly concerned about being engulfed by the more prominent TV infrastructure.

Presenters from Radio France including presenters Léa Salamé, Nicolas Demorand, and Guillaume Erner expressed the changes, calling them ‘demagogic, ineffective and dangerous’ in Le Monde.

However, the government has reassured staff members that the merger would not threaten the work they do. 

“I want to guarantee not only your continuity but also your strength… in a world of exacerbated competition between platforms and social networks,” Ms Dati recently said.

“Obviously, we are not going to standardise either professions or activities,” she added in a Senate hearing on the matter earlier this week.

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