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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Lynch steps into French TV row
David Lynch
Lynch heads the judging panel at Cannes this year
The outcry over the sacking of a popular French TV executive has spread from France to Hollywood, with film director David Lynch warning that French cinema itself could be under threat.

Protests are continuing following Pierre Lescure's dismissal as chairman of Canal Plus by Jean-Marie Messier, chief executive of the channel's owner, US-French media giant Vivendi Universal.

Pieree Lescure leaves Canal Plus
Pierre Lescure was sacked

The channel has a strong history of funding offbeat but successful films, including Billy Elliot and The Others, and has a three-year film deal with Secrets and Lies director Mike Leigh.

Lynch, whose film Mulholland Drive was produced by Canal Plus, told the French newspaper Le Monde: "We are entering an era of standardisation and of mass-produced cinema."

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has asked French broadcasting officials to make sure that the changes at the top of Canal Plus are in accordance with French law.

Mr Messier was forced on Thursday to turn back from scheduled talks with French media regulators the CSA as protests were staged outside the watchdog's Paris headquarters.

Demonstrators
Crowds have turned out in support of Mr Lescure

He eventually gained access to the building via the car park, in time to arrive at the meeting some 30 minutes late.

The debate over Mr Lescure's sacking centres on the so-called French cultural exception - the system under which broadcasters are obliged to fund French cinema in exchange for the right to screen recent feature films.

Mr Lescure is a staunch supporter of the cultural exception - unlike Mr Messier, who has described the system as "dead".

'Scandalised'

Lynch, who heads the jury at this year's Cannes film festival, is quoted in Le Monde as saying: "France has an incredibly strong tradition of film-making, helped by a regulatory system that has permitted it to retain a local industry."

Charlotte Gainsbourg
Charlotte Gainsbourg is supporting Mr Lescure
"If I were French I would be scandalised to see that system come under threat."

More than 250 celebrities have turned out in support of Mr Lescure, including footballers Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, actors Juliette Binoche and Charlotte Gainsbourg and Bosnian film director Emir Kusturica.

See also:

17 Apr 02 | Business
Fired chief hijacks French TV
12 Feb 02 | Oscars 2002
David Lynch: American surrealist
11 Jan 02 | Film
Lynch heads Cannes judges
06 Jan 02 | Reviews
Mulholland Drive: Your views
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