the examination of the contested reform project is postponed

The public broadcasting merger project led by the Minister of Culture, Rachida Dati, is falling behind schedule. Its examination in the National Assembly was postponed on Thursday, May 23, while the entire sector is on strike to oppose it.

MEPs were due to debate this lightning reform at first reading on Thursday and Friday. But given the size of the agenda, the government took the decision, at midday, to postpone it. The text may not be examined until June. And this, while the timetable desired by the Minister of Culture was already very constrained, with a merger of public broadcasting planned from 1er January 2026.

From the regional networks of France 3 and France Bleu to the Parisian headquarters, the entire sector is called to strike on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, the Radio France antennas were disrupted and the usual broadcasts were replaced by music. On the television side, the Franceinfo channel rebroadcast programs.

To ensure the retransmission of the debate Thursday evening on France 2 between the Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, and the president of the National Rally (RN), Jordan Bardella, management planned to use external service providers, according to the unions.

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Joint holding company

Wanting “gather strength”the Minister of Culture plans a transitional phase with a common holding company for public broadcasting on 1er January 2025, then the merger a year later. Some 16,000 employees are affected.

In addition to France Télévisions and Radio France, the audiovisual juggernaut would also bring together the INA (National Audiovisual Institute) and France Médias Monde (RFI, France 24). The integration of this last group, however, is debated even in the presidential camp. Within these four public companies, fears are acute for resources and jobs. A rally is planned near the Ministry of Culture on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s our survival that is at stake”affirmed the Radio France unions during a general assembly on Wednesday, calling for sending “a radical message” by the strike. Concerns are particularly significant at Maison Ronde at the idea that radio could be swallowed up by TV.

In a forum at Worldmore than 1,100 Radio France employees, including presenters Léa Salamé, Nicolas Demorand, Guillaume Erner and Nagui, expressed their rejection of a project “demagogic, ineffective and dangerous”.

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“Without any real editorial objective”

“Why hire [le secteur] in a merger that promises to be long, complex, anxiety-provoking for employees and without any real editorial objective? »also ask the France Télévisions unions.

To staff, Rachida Dati assured Sunday: “I want to guarantee you not only sustainability but [aussi] your strength » in a universe of “exacerbated competition”between platforms and social networks. “The political moment has come”according to the minister, after an attempt at rapprochement by her predecessor Franck Riester stopped by Covid-19. “Obviously, we are not going to standardize either professions or activities”she also insisted on Wednesday before the Senate.

The giant company, called France Médias, would have a budget of 4 billion euros.

To accelerate, the minister from Les Républicains (LR) relied on a bill from Senator Laurent Lafon (Centrist Union) programming a holding company, already adopted in June 2023 by the upper house. “We are not opposed to the merger” but “we can wonder about the calendar”had underlined Mr. Lafon before the announcement of the postponement.

The fate of France Médias Monde does not appear to be decided. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, affirmed that the government was ultimately in favor of its exclusion from the single company. But discussions could be tight with the right, which is conversely attached to its inclusion.

RN elected officials – in favor of pure and simple privatization of public broadcasting – support the merger project. Regarding privatization, the president of LR, Eric Ciotti, did not “no taboo” neither.

For its part, the left holding torpedo like fusion. Insoumise France sees in this project “the culmination of denigration and weakening” of the public service operated by President Emmanuel Macron. “It’s not the return of ORTF that will allow us to compete with Netflix”add the environmentalists.

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The World with AFP

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