EC chief Barroso 'vanishes' from French TV broadcast

31st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 31 (AFP) - A row has broken out at state-owned television station France 2 over the cancellation of a programme featuring EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, amid claims it was stopped under pressure from President Jacques Chirac, newspapers reported Thursday.

PARIS, March 31 (AFP) - A row has broken out at state-owned television station France 2 over the cancellation of a programme featuring EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, amid claims it was stopped under pressure from President Jacques Chirac, newspapers reported Thursday.

Staff representatives accused station president Marc Tessier of caving in to the government, which feared Barroso's April 21 appearance on the popular debate show "A hundred minutes to convince" would boost the "no" vote in the referendum on the EU constitution.

Barroso was to be asked to defend the Bolkestein directive - the controversial proposal to open up the EU services industry which is seen as a major factor in the recent surge in support for the "no" camp.

Tessier called Barroso's office in Brussels on March 22 to inform him that the fixture was being postponed indefinitely, on the grounds that it would conflict with rules governing share-out of media time in the run-up to the May 29 vote, newspapers reported.

But in an open letter two members of the board of France 2 accused Tessier of "deprogramming the broadcast as a result of an intervention from the government."

"It is an event that is without precedent (in many years): the managers of a public service channel calmly changing their choice of political interviewees during an electoral period to please those who are in power," wrote Yves Loiseau and Marcel Trillat, who represent staff on the board.

Chirac was furious at remarks made by Barroso defending the Bolkestein directive, and at last week's EU summit in Brussels he was overheard telling senior aides to find a way to have the broadcast cancelled, Le Monde reported. A few hours later Tessier made his call.

Le Monde also noted that Tessier is hoping to be re-appointed shortly to his post - a decision on which Chirac's influence will weigh heavily.

There was no official reaction from Brussels, but Le Monde quoted unnamed members of the EU Commission as saying that the affair made France look like a "banana republic."

Fearful of the Bolkestein directive's impact on the referendum debate, the French president secured agreement at last week's summit that the text will be redrafted.

But that victory has not stopped the advances of the "no" camp, which now stands at some 54 percent in the polls.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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