Star French news anchor "PPDA" to step down

PARIS, June 9 Mon Jun 9, 2008 6:25am EDT

PARIS, June 9 (Reuters) - Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, France's best-known newsreader, is to step down as anchor of the main evening bulletin as TF1, the country's biggest private broadcaster, fights falling ratings, French media said.

A spokesman for TF1 (TFFP.PA) declined to confirm the reports but offered no denial, saying only: "There is no official confirmation."

Poivre d'Arvor, generally known as "PPDA", has been reading the flagship bulletin on TF1 since 1987 and is regularly seen on magazine covers, at society events and in gossip columns.

He will be replaced by Laurence Ferrari, a newsreader on pay TV station Canal Plus, ending a career as the face of the evening news that began more than three decades ago on public broadcaster France 2.

TF1, controlled by Martin Bouygues, an industrialist and close friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy, has been losing market share since the launch of digital television in 2005 offered French viewers a much wider choice of channels.

Nonetheless, the front-page coverage accorded to the move in French newspapers underlines the importance that "PPDA" and the TF1 evening news has in shaping public opinion in France.

"PPDA, who became a logo in his own right, invented the star journalist in France and in this capacity, hated by many, feared by others, set his mark on the 8 o'clock news for more than 30 years," the left-wing daily Liberation said in an editorial.

Poivre d'Arvor's grave demeanour, good looks and deep voice have made him one of the most popular media personalities in France but he has also been involved in controversy.

He was suspended for several weeks in 1996 after being fined and given a suspended prison sentence for accepting lavish gifts and Caribbean holidays from a businessman.

He was also involved in a spat over a report from 1991 that appeared to be an interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro but which was in fact made up of footage from a news conference. (Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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