Page last updated at 18:46 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Strikes greet Sarkozy's TV reform

By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

Protests against French TV reforms, November 2008
State TV workers say the reforms will benefit private rivals

Journalists at France's two state-owned TV channels are taking strike action in protest against broadcasting reforms coming into force.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's changes will ban advertising on prime time public TV from Monday evening.

The president says the reforms will increase quality, and put French TV on a par with the BBC.

But workers at the France 2 and France 3 channels argue the reforms will simply benefit privately owned rivals.

France 3 said one in four staff were on strike on Monday, while France 2 employees scheduled a strike for Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported.

President Sarkozy insists that his plans will shake up French broadcasting, freeing public television stations from advertising wars and giving them the chance to make much more cultural and highbrow programmes.

From 2000 (1900 GMT) on Monday, the state owned TV channels will be banned from playing commercials during prime-time.

By the end of 2011, they will be banned from using any advertisements at all.

'Putinesque style'

But journalists at the public stations fear that without commercials they will not have enough money to make good programmes and will start to lose their audiences.

Mr Sarkozy says the revenue shortfall will be refunded through a higher tax on advertisements aired on private channels, and a new tax imposed on internet providers and mobile phone operators.

Critics, though, are not convinced, warning the only sector to benefit from the advertising ban would be private stations like France's most watched TV channel TF1, which would face less competition for advertising revenue.

TF1's main shareholder, Martin Bouygues, is a close friend of President Sarkozy and the godfather of one of his sons.

The minute the president announced his plans last year, share prices at TF1 soared.

Mr Sarkozy has recently been accused by the left-wing press of curtailing the French media's freedom in a "Putinesque" style.

His plans will also now allow the government to appoint the head of state-owned television, prompting fears of a politically controlled state broadcaster.

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Taipei Times Online State TV in France says adieu to advertisements - 6 hrs ago
Sydney Morning Herald French revolution in TV unleashes fury - 27 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited France bans adverts on state TV during primetime - 40 hrs ago French state TV says adieu to ads - 41 hrs ago
Telegraph Advertising banned on France's stateowned television channels - 62 hrs ago

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