The politics behind the bitter dispute at Radio France


Several of France's favourite radio stations, listened to by a quarter of the country's population, have been disrupted by an almost three-week-long strike at Radio France, with many popular programmes taken off the air. The dispute centres on a plan of spending cuts and the shedding of more than 300 jobs, and has become the longest in the history of the public broadcaster, which runs flagship stations France Inter, France Info, France Culture, and France Musique. That prompted culture minister Fleur Pellerin to order management to resume talks with staff, but these ended in stalemate over the Easter weekend. While Radio France, which is 90% state-funded, faces a 21.3 million-euro deficit in 2015, and with the future of one of its two acclaimed orchestras under threat, its boss was forced to apologise for lavish spending on his office and consultants. Meanwhile, France's national audit court has advised that Radio France should save money by merging its four main editorial teams into just one. In this opinion article, Mediapart's Hubert Huertas, a former journalist with France Culture who was also head of the French national journalists' union (SNJ) branch at Radio France, gives his scathing analysis of how a budgetary issue has been turned into a political crisis.

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It's a simple formula. First of all, accuse your dog of being rabid – in this case, a rabid spender. Therefore put it on a diet. Too bad if, in fact, the French state first signed an 'aims and means' contract in 2010 that made provision for an increase in funding until 2015, then decided in 2012 to go back on its signature in order to reduce its financing. And tough luck, too, if the cost of the renovation work on Radio France's broadcasting centre in Paris, the Maison de la Radio, ran out of control. Radio France's 2015 budget will thus be 20 million euros short.