Monday, 17 August 2009

Ferrari to Return as PPDA is Given the Boot

One of France's top news anchors, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, will
bid farewell to viewers this summer and be replaced by the
darling of the French media, Laurence Ferrari.

PPDA as he is more affectionately known has been a familiar
face on prime time news for more than three decades. For Ferrari
it marks a return to TF1 – the country's biggest private
television channel - which she left in December 2006 to host a
weekly political programme on rival station Canal +.

The change signals something of a revolution in French
television journalism. After all PPDA has been more or less the
face and the voice of television news for the past 30 years.

In February 1976 he was chosen to present the prime time news
on the country's public channel Antenne 2, which later became
France 2. He jumped ship nine years later to join TF1, where he
has been ever since.

His tenure has been remarkable in the often fickle world of
television in which ratings rule. But a recent drop in viewing
figures has been compounded by stories of his autocratic style
with newsroom colleagues and the desire by the powers-that-be
for a change at the top.

Not surprisingly Ferrari didn't require that much persuading to
return to TF1. Despite a recent drop in ratings, the 8 o'clock
evening news still regularly attracts more than 10 million
viewers and is quite simply the most prestigious job in
television journalism.

The 41-year-old first joined TF1 in 2000 and for the next six
years formed one half of the golden couple of TV news along with
her former husband, Thomas Hugues. The pair presented a weekly
fast-paced news magazine and were regular holiday stand-ins for
the channel's main news presenters - Ferrari for Claire Chazal
at the weekends and Hugues ironically enough for PPDA on
weekdays.

Ferrari's move in 2006 to Canal + came as a surprise to many,
after all it gave her less exposure to the public at large. But
it couldn't have been better timed professionally speaking,
coming as it did at the beginning of the campaign for last
year's presidential elections.

Her weekly political programme, "Dimanche", gave Ferrari the
chance to go one-on-one with some of France's leading figures.
And she won accolades for her pugnacity especially with the two
main presidential candidates at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy and
Ségoléne Royal.

Indeed the chemistry between Ferrari and Sarkozy certainly
clicked – if only on a professional level rather than, as
falsely rumoured later, the personal one.

Much is being made of Ferrari's glamour and there's no denying
her looks but she's also an accomplished journalist with years
of experience. Her arrival should provide a boost to TF1, not
least from those curious to see a fresh face at the helm.

But for some media watchers there are perhaps more sinister
powers at work.

The merry-go-round in front of the cameras is also being
accompanied by a shake up behind the scenes at TF1 with
appointments in both news production and direction seeming to be
made at the behest of the channel's major shareholder – Bouygues
– whose CEO, Martin Bouygues, just happens to be a close friend
of Sarkozy.

At the same time public television is getting ready to scrap
advertising, as ordered by Sarkozy earlier this year, with
rumours a-plenty that the aim is in fact to pave the way to
eventual privatisation of the main channel, France 2.

Not surprisingly perhaps there's speculation in some quarters
that Sarkozy is setting himself up as France's answer to Italy's
Silvio Berlusconi, with a hands-on approach to setting the media
agenda.

Be that as it may, the immediate question is what next for the
60-year-old PPDA? With his experience he'll certainly be courted
by competitive channels and is unlikely to disappear completely
from the small screen. And of course there's also doubt as to
how long Chazal will be able to hang on to her weekend slot
before being replaced.


About The Author: Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based
broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics,
sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here
in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com