Juppe gaffe spotlights problems

A humdinger of a mistake in pubcaster France 2’s evening newscast has heaped shame on Gallic public broadcasting, causing heads to roll.

Not wanting to be scooped by private web TF1, which had an exclusive interview with troubled politico Alain Juppe, France 2 anchorman David Pujadas opened the web’s newscast by announcing Juppe was quitting politics following his conviction for corruption.

But as France 2 was burying Juppe, in a live interview on TF1 the former prime minister of France told millions of viewers that he had decided to stay put, pending an appeal.

Fortunately, someone at France 2 was watching. During the course of its newscast, the pubcaster retracted the story.

After a turbulent week in which angry news staff laid the blame for the howler squarely on their editorial chiefs, news director Olivier Mazerolle resigned Feb 11. and Pujadas was suspended for two weeks. But since it feels it can’t do without him, France 2 is keeping Mazerolle on until next month, and he’ll continue to present his regular political talkshow.

The affair has been another blow to pubcasting, compounding concerns over the sector at a time when strikes over pay have caused a two-week news blackout on public radio stations.

But the dark clouds have a silver lining — of sorts. Recurrent strikes in the sector tend to pass unnoticed. In the wake of the France 2 debacle, the pubcasters’ plight has been front-page news.

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