Sarkozy tries to make French public TV ad free

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PARIS -- Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday took the first official steps to making French public television completely ad-free by Jan. 1, 2009, inaugurating a government commission devoted to the financing of what he called "a new public television service."

The new commission will be headed by Jean-Francois Cope, a leader of Sarkozy's conservative UMP party, and composed of members of parliament and broadcasting professionals.

Sarkozy alleviated concern among public television workers that the government will soon sell off one of the state-owned TV channels to compensate for the lost advertising income.

"There will be no privatization of France Televisions. No public service channel will be privatized," he said.

Sarkozy also confirmed that the revenue shortfall will not be lightened by a tax on private radios or newspapers.

"The abolition of advertising is the only way to instill diversity," Sarkozy said.

He added: "I dream that we'll be an example for the rest of the world." Sarkozy's new ad-free campaign prompted public service TV and radio employees to strike last Wednesday.

The commission is expected to report back with proposed broadcasting changes in May.
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