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France 2/3 prez tapped

Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, 56, one of France’s most respected journalists and a former primetime anchorman, has been appointed president of French pubcasters France 2 and France 3.

Elkabbach replaces outgoing president Herve Bourges, who announced earlier in the month that he would not stand again for the job when his three-year contract expires Dec. 18.

It took the French TV regulatory body CSA just one hour to vote unanimously in favor of Elkabbach, in the process discarding fellow journalist Jean-Marie Cavada and Pathe Television president Janine Langlois-Glandier.

The new president inherits a public service that is expected to need another injection of government funds in order to make up for lower-than-expected advertising revenue. Observers say that Bourges’ decision not to run for the presidency was partly spurred by the belief that he did not have the support of the government and would be unlikely to get the cash he needed.

Estimates are that the pubcasters will fall $ 34 million short of the $ 488 million ad revenue target this year. The government, which sets the advertising goal for France 2 and France 3, has put the 1994 figure at around $ 500 million. Few people believe that the pubcasters can hit this target.

On the upside, the pubcaster’s ratings have improved significantly under Herve Bourges. Since 1990, the joint pubcaster market share has moved from a disastrous 33.3% to 39.2%. At the same time, Bourges radically reduced overheads , pink-slipping 912 staffers.

For the new president, his nomination is a personal victory. In 1981, Elkabbach was fired as head of news at what was then called Antenne-2 (now France 2), amid accusations that he was too close to the outgoing French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Over the past 12 years he has gradually rehabilitated himself and in the process worked his way up to become a senior executive at private radio Europe 1.

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