France's star news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, is to be ousted in favour of a glamorous younger woman in a mini-revolution for the French media landscape, reports said Monday.
Known affectionately by his initials “PPDA”, the 60-year-old Poivre d'Arvor has spent 21 years hosting the country's most-watched evening news broadcast on private channel TF1 for a daily audience of some 10 million viewers.
Long a household name in France, the veteran journalist made global headlines in 1990 just before the Gulf War for smuggling an 18-month-old baby out of Baghdad in a travel bag.
But in a mini-earthquake for France's media landscape, RTL radio reported Sunday that he will hand over in September to Laurence Ferrari, a 41-year-old blonde who has hosted a string of prime-time TV shows for the past 10 years, as part of an image revamp to fight a ratings slump.
“PPDA run over by a Ferrari,” ran a tongue-in-cheek headline in Liberation newspaper, which like most of the French press splashed reports of the ouster across its front-page on Monday.
Liberation and Le Parisien newspapers suggested President Nicolas Sarkozy — a close friend of TF1's owner, the business magnate Martin Bouygues — had played a part in Ferrari's nomination.
Both newspapers reported Sarkozy had apparently let it be known he would be happy to see Ferrari in PPDA's job. Ferrari first shot to Sarkozy's attention after interviewing him in 2005, when he was interior minister.
Ferrari successfully sued the French gossip magazine Closer in December for reporting rumours of a romance with the president.
Voted France's most glamourous on-screen host by French viewers, Ferrari left TF1 in 2006 for rival Canal Plus, setting up her own production company and hosting a successful political talk show.
PPDA's departure would mark the end of an era in France, where his television career stretches back to the mid-1970s.
Over the years, Poivre d'Arvor has bounced back from a string of scandals —most spectacularly in 1991 over the broadcast of a faked interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, edited from snippets of a press conference.