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Ferrari to Return as PPDA is Given the Boot

Jun 18, 2008
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
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