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French public radio off air over big-spending boss's cuts plans

media Radio France boss Mathieu Gallet AFP

A strike on France's public radio entered its 14th day on Tuesday as journalists and technical staff opposed budget cuts they feared will mean job cuts and the outsourcing of the orchestra and choir. Allegations of wasteful spending by the company's new boss have added bitterness to the dispute.

A mass meeting of Radio France staff on Tuesday voted to continue the strike, which started on 19 March and is now the longest at the company in 10 years and has taken may programmes off the air.

Chief executive Mathieu Gallet promised to present his plans for French public radio's future to a works council in the next few days.

About 200 strikers went to the National Assembly in the afternoon to ask the government to intervene in the dispute.

Radio France covers France's two public news channels, France Inter and France Info, a music and a culture station and a network of local radios.

RFI is not affected by the strike because it is not part of Radio France.

Radio France is expected to run up a deficit of 21.3 million euros in 2015 and is supposed to make 50 million euros of savings.

That has led Gallet to propose that 200-300 older employees tale voluntary redundancies and that the company stop running its renowned orchestra and choir.

Unions say that the number of full-time staff has already gone down 25 per cent over the last few years and that some ancillary jobs have been hived off to contractors.

The strikers' determination has been hardened by claims by the Canard Enchaîné paper that Gallet spent almost 100,000 euros on refurbishing his office, instead of the initial estimate of 34,500 euros, and hired a PR consultant, Denis Pingaud, for a salary of 90,000 euros a year.

That earned him a rap over the knuckles from Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin.

"I can understand that the French people are a bit shocked," she commented and summoned Gallet to her office, where she ordered him to draw up proposals for Radio France's future within a fortnight.

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