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Laurence Ferrari. Who? You might well ask.

Ah well she's the golden girl of French news, the darling of the media here (for the moment) and the not-so-new face at the helm of TF1's flagship prime time news, Le Journal de 20 heures (JT)

Not so new in the sense that she's returning to TF1, France's largest private channel, after a couple of years at rival Canal .

On Monday 8,3 million French (40.2 per cent of the viewing public) tuned in to watch her as she made her debut. The curiosity factor undoubtedly high as she stepped in to the role so long the almost exclusive property of veteran newscaster, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, (PPDA).

He made his last broadcast at the beginning of the summer, “resigning" from the channel after 21 years on the job following TF1's decision to replace him with Ferrari.

So how did she do? Was there really anything new that she brought to the broadcast apart from being a fresh face and a woman? Did she live up to the media kerfuffle and hype surrounding her appointment?

Well of course it's early days yet, but that hasn't stopped the press from taking a slightly partisan interest. After all, some would argue there's nothing more any profession likes more than discussing and analysing itself. So why should journalism be any different? And Ferrari has certainly filled more than her fair share of column inches over the past few days.

The website of one weekly news magazine, Le Point, has even gone so far as to promise to follow her progress over the whole of her first week on the job, and has invited readers to share their opinions.

Of course those opinions tend to be very much split, running the whole gamut from saying Ferrari “gabbles" is “too distant" and “lacks humility'" to a “breath of fresh air" and “youthful vigour. "

Whatever the case, Ferrari undoubtedly has a hard act to follow as PPDA was something of a national institution here in France and for three decades on one channel or another had been virtually the face and voice of television news.

Part of the reported reason for his dismissal was the gradual drop in ratings over the past year even though hovering around an average share of 35 per cent plus, it was still twice that of its main rival on France 2, the country's public television channel.

TF1 has seen a drop in its general share of the audience across the spectrum, partly because there are a number of new (private) channels that have sprung up.

And when it comes to news, not only does it now find itself competing of course with other sources such as the Net, but there are also three other all-news channels to be taken into account (LCI, BFM and i-Tele).

Add to that the tradition here in France that both TF1 and France 2 have their flagship news broadcasts going head-to-head at 8pm and it's perhaps not surprising that JT has seen a drop in ratings over the past year.

Whatever media pundits might say - and they've been saying plenty - TF1 has hardly taken a gamble with Ferrari. Far from being simply a pretty face to fill the screen, she's also an accomplished and well-respected journalist.

The 41-year-old first joined TF1 in 2000 and for the next six years formed one half of the golden couple of TV news along with her former husband, Thomas Hugues. The pair presented a weekly fast-paced news magazine and were regular holiday stand-ins for the channel's main news presenters - Ferrari for Claire Chazal at the weekends and Hugues ironically enough for PPDA on weekdays.

In 2006 she jumped ship for Canal , which gave her less exposure to the public at large but couldn't have been better timed professionally speaking as it came at the beginning of the campaign for last year's presidential elections.

Her weekly political programme, “Dimanche", gave Ferrari the chance to go one-on-one with some of France's leading figures. And she won accolades for her pugnacity especially with the two main presidential candidates at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségoléne Royal.

Indeed the chemistry between Ferrari and Sarkozy certainly clicked - if only on a professional level rather than, as falsely rumoured later, the personal one.

The fact that TF1's CEO is Martin Bouygues, a personal friend of Sarkozy, didn't go unnoticed in the press, and there were suggestions from some quarters that more sinister powers were at work when news of Ferrari's appointment broke.

As for how she's really going to fare and what impact she will have, of course it's far too early to reach any solid conclusions. But there's unlikely to be a radical change in the near future - apart from there being a new face popping up in French sitting rooms.

Ferrari herself is quoted as saying that she doesn't want to bring about a radical shake-up in the way things have been done in the past.

"The only objective that TF1 has fixed is to produce a good news programme, " she said in interviews before taking over. “I believe in continuity (of the programme) and I would prefer gradual changes rather than a revolution. "

And in a sense she didn't. By Tuesday the curiosity factor had worn off somewhat and 7.4 million (38.7 per cent) tuned in for her second broadcast.

Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at


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