Head of RFI details anticipated deficit, action taken to cut costs
October 8th, 2009 - 14:00 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Paris, 6 October 2009: French state-owned radio station Radio France Internationale will post a deficit of between 2m and 4m euros this year, but the station would have balanced its budget if the schedule of the restructuring plan had been adhered to, said Alain de Pouzilhac, the head of RFI, in an interview with [French financial daily] Les Echos.

“RFI will have a deficit in the range of 2m to 4m euros. If the schedule had been adhered to, the restructuring plan would have enabled RFI to balance its budget from as early as this year,” he said.

The RFI management had announced a restructuring plan in January incorporating 206 redundancies out of around 1,000 posts and the closure of six foreign language desks (German, Albanian, Polish, Serbo-Croat, Turkish and Laotian), citing low audience figures as its reason.

This decision was the cause of a strike by staff of the station, which began on 12 May and was called off on 10 July, before resuming in early September.

On 28 September, the judicial authorities, to which the matter was referred by the radio’s works committee, suspended the plan and asked the management to review it. The management said that it would “rapidly” carry out the modifications requested.

“This plan is necessary because at RFI there is a culture of recurrent deficit, denied by the unions, in any case most of them,” Mr Pouzilhac emphasized.

“RFI has lost more than eight million listeners in four years, dropping from 44 million to 35.6million around the world. We wanted first and foremost to stabilize the fall. That is why we have reorganized the languages and scrapped those that did not have an audience, such as German,” he explained.

On the other hand, the station is due to launch new languages, such as Swahili, “to conquer Portuguese-speaking and English-speaking Africa”.

Reviewing the French Foreign Broadcasting (AEF) holding (incorporating France 24, RFI, TV5Monde) on the occasion of the Mipcom [international film and programmes fair] in Cannes [south of France], Mr Pouzilhac announced the objective of reducing costs over a sum of 60m euros’ worth of contracts, notably by means of negotiation.

“We are going to look at all possible savings to ensure that they are effective by 2010 and these savings will not be handed over to our stockholder but will be reinvested in the companies,” he said. For the first year, the objective is savings of around 10 to 15 per cent over contracts as a whole.

He also announced the forthcoming signing of the first contract of aims and means (excluding TV5Monde) with the state, “a contract that will only be ratified once RFI is no longer in deficit”.

Mr Pouzilhac also said that the AEF companies would move “to a single location if possible in the first quarter of 2011″.