PARIS, June 9 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
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)