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iTélé dispute over controversial host continues

Canal+-owned news channel iTélé’s management have produced a new offer aimed at staff wishing to quit the channel – the latest move in a dispute that has convulsed the news service for the last month.

The offer comes as iTélé employees voted to continue their three-week-old strike at least until Wednesday, when representatives of three unions are set to meet French employment minister Myriam El Khomri.

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, El Khomri’s department issued a communiqué expressing its concern over the chaos engulfing the channel, inviting its management to discuss the conflict and calling for mediation.

Canal+ has not publicly stated the terms it is now offering staff wishing to leave the beleaguered channel.

Staff at iTélé came out in protest in October over Canal’s decision to go ahead with a new show featuring controversial host Jean-Marc Morandini.

Canal+ had originally announced in June that it would air a new magazine show, Morandini Live, featuring the veteran TV and radio presenter. In the weeks that followed, Morandini was accused of sexual misconduct during casting sessions before being placed under judicial investigation for alleged aggravated corruption of a minor via electronic communication.

In the face of these developments, Canal+ said that it would go ahead and air the programme he was hired to host, based on the principle of the presumption of innocence. It said that, if Morandini was found guilty, he would quit the channel forthwith without recompense.

Staff at the channel protested and demanded that iTélé’s management pull Morandini’s show, taking strike action in mid-October. iTélé finally pulled Morandini Live off air last week.

French media regulator the CSA last week said that iTélé is now likely to face sanctions as a result of lack of honesty and editorial rigour. In a ruling that referred to the events surrounding Morandini Live, the watchdog called out the broadcaster for the alleged functional failure of the news channel’s ethics committee over the last year. The latter is charged with ensuring respect for the principles of media pluralism.

The CSA also expressed concern over the effects of the conflict between the channel and its employees on the channel’s output. The regulator said that although it did not have a remit to intervene in industrial disputes, it would pay close attention to the on-air performance of a channel that had a licence to use a free-to-air frequency.

Canal+ said in response that when Morandini Live resumed broadcasting it would be subject to a new regime to ensure that it met the required standards. It said that the channel’s ethics committee would meet as soon as possible to ensure that pluralism commitments were met.