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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 15:53 GMT
French unions attack free newspaper
Destroyed papers in Marseilles
Metro still intends to press on in the Marseilles market
The free newspaper Metro has made a rocky debut on the French market after angry trade unionists seized thousands of copies due to be distributed in the southern city of Marseilles.


We've seen hostility to the paper before, but never on this scale

Metro spokesman
Members of the Communist CGT trade union burst into a printing plant and grabbed 50,000 copies of the freshly printed papers, which are largely produced and distributed by non-union labour.

Metro International, a Swedish group, avoided similar action in Paris by printing 200,000 copies of the paper in Luxembourg overnight.

However in at least one incident, protesters managed to seize two lorry loads of the paper and throw them onto the street.

"We were given some advance warning that we were going to face problems in France and have been working out ways to get around them," a Metro spokesman told BBC News Online.

"We've seen hostility to the paper before, but never on this scale."

He insisted however that Metro would not be knocked off course by the angry union, which has vowed to continue its actions against a company which it says has disregarded French press conventions.

Legal wrangle

Metro, which has become a fixture at bus stops, on trains and on the underground in 21 other cities worldwide, boasts some nine million readers in total. It is thought to particularly appeal to a younger generation who would not normally pay for a newspaper.

Passenger on London underground
The paper takes about 20 minutes to read
It generates its revenue from advertising. While traditional newspapers incur large circulation costs by deliveries to shops, newsstands homes and offices, Metro avoids such overheads by bulk delivery, often to local public transport stations.

Metro's French experience may have been unique in its aggression, but the paper has seriously ruffled feathers elsewhere.

Its contract with the public transport body in the US city of Philadelphia became the subject of a lawsuit by the owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, USA Today and The New York Times when it was launched two years ago.

The papers unsuccesfully argued that the arrangement was unconstitutional because it allowed Metro to be distributed on buses and subway platforms where other publications could not be sold.

See also:

03 Sep 01 | Business
Metro set for Danish launch
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