French Public Broadcaster to Cut 600 Jobs

France Televisions will further reduce its workforce after massive budget shortfalls.

PARIS – Following a yearlong financial crisis, as government funding cuts and the loss of evening advertising resulted in a massive budget shortfall, public broadcaster France Televisions has announced plans for up to 600 voluntary job cuts as it seeks to cut costs as part of its recovery plan.

The job cuts were announced by France Televisions president Remy Pflimlin at a press conference.

Pflimlin has been under pressure to downsize the public broadcaster's workforce following the budget implosion, and more job cuts had been expected since the national network announced its savings plans in 2012. The move will reduce France Televisions' workforce to 9,750, the lowest level since 2007, and down from a high in 2012 of 11,000.

Pflimlin’s savings plan reduces annual costs by $368 million (€275 million) by 2015, including 10 percent cuts in programming and 20 percent in public relations. The group is in the process of renegotiating its content purchases with production companies as part of the cost-cutting efforts, but will still offer 28 new programs and 18 new series on its five channels in the 2013-2014 season.

The one bright spot in its budget is in digital. The group still plans to invest up to $80 million (€60 million) into the development of digital programming and delivery on its websites, which are reaching 50 million video views per month.

“Our investment in digital will grow, with works for the web and all that accompanies the digital life of a program,” said group secretary general Martin Adjari. “We anticipate the revolution of digital TV.”

The public channels here have faced increased ratings and financial competition from private channels. An advertising price war between M6 and TF1 has resulted in a drop in prices for the already beleaguered advertising revenue for the public broadcaster. “The very aggressive business strategy of our competitors lowers revenue yields per spot,” said Pflimlin, who is still hoping the government will reverse or alter its evening advertising ban. France Televisions can’t show ads after 8 p.m. due to government restrictions put in place by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, a move that is widely seen as weakening France Televisions’ negotiating power across the board.

Current culture minister Aurelie Filippetti has been against reinstating ads in primetime hours, though she has said she would look at other solutions, such as single-sponsor programming blocks. A plan to further restrict available ad time to before 6 p.m. was put on hold in July.

Pflimlin also indicated France Televisions might be looking to unload its 34 percent stake in children’s channel Guilli to French media firm Lagardere, which currently owns the remaining 66 percent.

The final job-cutting plan will be presented to the council that oversees the public broadcaster in October.