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Adieu PPDA

Jul 24, 2008
There was an end of a television era here yesterday as Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, affectionately known in this country as PPDA, made his final broadcast as anchorman on TF1's prime time news slot.

Think of a news anchor in your own country, someone who has been around for donkeys years and at a certain time of the day when the small screen is flickering becomes almost part of the sitting room furniture.

PPDA has been something of a national institution in France for the past three decades and has quite simply been the face and voice of news, first on public television in 1976 and then from the mid 80s on the nation's main private channel, TF1.

When you turned on the box to tune in at 8.00pm any weekday evening (holidays excepted of course) there he was in his own distinctive, laid back, gentle yet authoritative style, reading what you somehow just knew to be true - even if sometimes it wasn't, such as the fake "exclusive" personal interview with Fidel Castro that had in fact simply been edited material lifted from a press conference.

But recent events have forced 60-year-old PPDA into earlier than expected retirement - at least from what's considered to be the plum job in French television news. And from September he'll be replaced by Laurence Ferrari, who'll be making her return to TF1 after a couple of years honing her not inconsiderable skills on a rival channel.

Millions tuned in for PPDA's last broadcast, which as usual he read with panache, switching from one report to another and then effortlessly and seamlessly arriving at his farewell.

There wasn't a moment's hesitation, no sudden change, no melodramatic difference in tone as PPDA simply quoted Shakespeare by saying there was a time when everyone had to move on and the inevitable could not be avoided.

He thanked viewers for their support throughout the years, his production team and even his (now) former employer TF1

"Thank you for these past two magnificent decades. It has been an honour to be here and to have been able to practise this magical profession," he modestly said.

And then directly to the viewers, "I'm sure we'll see each other soon."

As the credits rolled, the clock went back over the decades to a time when PPDA still had a full head of hair.

There were clips of a much younger PPDA reporting live from Rwanda and more recently from New York after 9/11. Then a whole host of interview partners throughout the years including "spats" with former and current French presidents, Mitterrand, Chirac and Sarkozy. Interviews with other international figures past and present, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and many, many more as television did what only television can by summing up a life or a career in less than 30 seconds.

His dignity made one particular viewer feel most humble.
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specialising 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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