×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TF1 News Facing Challenging French Presidential Election Head-On

As the countdown to one of the most remarkable French presidential elections enters its final phase, TF1’s news coverage of the contest is certain to come under intense scrutiny.

The election, with votes being cast on April 23 and another round on May 7 should no candidate win a majority, may deliver a surprise result. After Brexit in the U.K. and the win by rank outsider Donald J. Trump in the U.S., could the French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen mark another victory for populism?

In both the U.K. and the U.S., the so-called “mainstream media” was accused of failing to reflect the growth of anti-establishment sentiment outside the big metropolises during the EU referendum and last year’s fight between Trump and Hillary Clinton. How is TF1’s news division to avoid the same trap as it tracks the complex five-way contest among Le Pen, François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Benoît Hamon, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon?

“We have to constantly question what we do and what we think,” says Catherine Nayl, the station’s executive VP, news. “For a channel like TF1, which makes a virtue of its proximity, it’s essential for us to reflect the country and its people.

“One of our distinctive features is that our bulletins include substantial regional and local news coverage. Every day, we work alongside the people who watch us. We don’t just go out every five years when a presidential election comes round. We hope that this familiarity with the public acts as a daily reality check, to prevent the risk of getting out of touch.”

TF1’s in-house news division employs around 580 journalists. They supply two daily bulletins, broadcast on the main channel, and the all-news channel LCI — relaunched a year ago as a free-to-air service following a threat to shutter it — and other outlets.

TF1 says its two daily newscasts are the most-watched in Europe. The flagship evening bulletin, shown at 8 p.m., attracts a 25% audience share, according to Nayl. This is a remarkable achievement when many people get their news online and shun traditional TV news.

France, however, is in many ways a conservative country in terms of how its people use media. And there is no doubt that TF1’s news programs remain firmly at the center of political debate in France despite the growth of online rivals.

On March 20, for the first time in France, TF1 hosted a TV debate ahead of the first round of voting featuring all five candidates.

“The key challenge for this campaign is to cement our legitimacy and status, and to reflect the reality of what is happening in the country,” says Nayl. “We took the decision to get the public debate rolling early, because we figured out fairly quickly that this would be an unusual and indeed unprecedented campaign.”

It seems that Nayl and her colleagues are throwing everything they can at a contest that is provoking a lot of controversy. Last June TF1 bowed a 50-minute live Sunday public affairs show “Vie Politique,” with a Facebook Live spin-off.

She adds: “We covered the primaries of both right and left candidates on TF1 and LCI, giving our coverage event TV status. Of course our evening news bulletin is at the heart of the coverage. It’s the go-to program for any politician who has something to announce.”

Persuading young people to watch news is a challenge for all legacy news organizations. How is TFI wrestling with this problem?

“News in general, and politics in particular, are of interest to everyone, whatever their age,” insists Nayl. “That said, how people use news content differs widely by age bracket. On TV, there’s a very large audience, but with an older profile. Young people who consume content on the web and social networks are looking for different formats: shorter, and with different messages and styles.

“That’s why our digital strategy goes beyond just making our TV programs available — live or in catch-up — on our MYTF1 digital platform or on our social network accounts.”And TF1 has introduced “digital native” initiatives in an effort to reach younger demos. “On LCI, we have launched two new video streams: ‘Presidential Live,’ streamed on Facebook Live, but also screened on the LCI channel, and the ‘Hugo Explains’ videos, produced in collaboration with a YouTuber and shown as part of the weekend morning show,” Nayl says. “We are [also] working with MinuteBuzz, a pioneer of viral video in France, to develop news content that will appeal to millennials.”

Whoever wins this unpredictable election, one thing is certain: To maintain its preeminent position in French news, TF1 will need to keep meeting the changing demands of its audience.

More TV

  • Apple Reveals New TV Streaming Service

    Apple Reveals New TV Streaming Service

    Apple on Monday unveiled plans for its long-anticipated streaming TV service. Sharing a stage with top talent including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, Viola Davis, and Kumail Nanjiani, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple TV+, the new platform for original television programming. “TV is more than just entertainment, it’s cultural,” Cook said [...]

  • La Liga Launches LaLigaSportTV OTT Streaming

    Spain’s La Liga Launches Pioneering OTT Service to Promote Spanish Sports Federations

    Spain’s top Soccer league, La Liga, has unveiled a new OTT service, LaLigaSportsTV. The service provides audiences with free coverage of major and minor Spanish sports content streamed directly to their personal devices. It looks set to be the first such service offered by a major European league, and of singular scope and objectives. LaLigaSportsTV [...]

  • Veep Season 6

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of March 25, 2019: 'Veep' Final Season, 'Barry' Season 2

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Veep” launches into its final season, and “Barry” season 2 debuts, both on [...]

  • Mandy Moore Walk of Fame Honor

    'This Is Us' Star Mandy Moore on Why She Is 'Operating at My Best Now'

    “This Is Us” star Mandy Moore successfully transitioned from a teenage pop star to an adult who juggles singing, acting and, soon enough, producing professionally. On March 25 she is being celebrated for her achievements with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honor she calls “tremendously humbling.” “I feel like I’m operating [...]

  • Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Jon Huertas,

    ‘This Is Us’ Creator Teases Final Moments of Season 3 Finale

    The final moments of the “This Is Us” Season 3 finale were so secretive, that series stars Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson received redacted scripts. Justin Hartley said when he found out the last moments, he told himself, “Oh f—, they did it to me again.” Brown, Watson and Hartley joined other cast [...]

  • Apple Event: How to Watch Live-Stream

    How to Live-Stream Today's Apple Event

    Monday is the coming-out party for Apple’s Hollywood ambitions: After years of trademark secrecy about its plans to stream into video entertainment, the tech giant is set to pull back the curtain at a media event. The live program kicks off at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET, on Monday, March 25, from the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content