Saturday, June 16, 2012

Musical Chairs in French TV News

Laurence Ferrari quit TF1. Rumor has it that Martin Bouygues wants to replace her with Laurent Delahousse, the France2 weekend anchor. Meanwhile, David Pujadas, the regular France2 anchor, has let it be known that he wouldn't necessarily refuse an offer from the commercial network if one were made. Who cares? you may well be asking yourself, and indeed the question of which pretty face reads the news isn't necessarily as important as the principals seem to think it is, especially in the era of the "normal presidency," which has the president traveling to the TV studio for an interview rather than summoning journalists to the Elysée for a carefully mise en scène representation of presidential power amid les fastes de la République.

Is it really "normality" that has guided Hollande's media decisions or rather a communications strategy as sophisticated as Sarkozy's but designed to take maximum advantage of the particular qualities of its "star," so different from Sarkozy's? And Sarkozy always seemed to be trying a bit too hard with his ever-shifting décor, carefully calculated camera angles, and studied displays of "attitude." As many commentators have remarked, that is why the now infamous Trierweiler tweet did so much damage. It undermined all of Hollande's effort to "dépipoliser" the presidency. Pour qui se prend-elle? was the reaction of many who had hitherto been pleased to find themselves with a president who didn't feel it necessary to use taxpayer money to erect a special mobile presidential shower stall in case the chief executive felt the need of une douche before a speech (as Sarkozy did).

France and Germany

Tensions are mounting between Paris and Berlin as Hollande and Ayrault meet with leaders of the German SPD in Paris. Meanwhile, linguistic boundaries are being crossed everywhere in Europe. The German edition of the Financial Times, concerned about the possible consequences of a Syriza victory in Greece, published an appeal in Greek asking voters in Greece to reject the party of the extreme left. Meanwhile, Jean-Marc Ayrault, an accomplished Germanist, was asked by an interviewer to address Frau Merkel in German, and he obliged, quite credibly to my ear (which is to say, his German accent is a good deal better than mine--not surprising since he taught the subject for many years):