And here is the news - with a crooked angle

Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, who is France's equivalent of Trevor McDonald or Dan Rather, will read the news tonight at 8pm. There is nothing unusual in that. PPDA, as he is known, reads the news most weekday nights on TF1, the most popular French television channel.

The difference tonight is that he will be lecturing the nation, in his usual confident style, for the first time since being definitively declared a crook. PPDA lost his final appeal last week against conviction in 1985 for accepting pounds 60,000 in embezzled funds from a businessman acting for politicians.

Whether this amounted to bribe-taking is a question of definition. Mr Poivre d'Arvor claims he took the money, in the form of free plane tickets and other gifts, "without thinking", because many of his colleagues were doing the same thing. The businessman claims the sweeteners to PPDA bought, among other things, a live appearance on television for his son-in-law, the then rising but now disgraced centre-right politician Michel Noir.

The obvious question, except that almost no one is asking it, is whether PPDA can carry on as the most popular intermediary between the people of France and national and world events. TFI said the charges against its star news anchor - and his pounds 22,000 fine and 15-month suspended sentence - are a "closed affair." Besides, as TFI did not add, his ratings are rising and his news bulletin is far more popular than the rival France 2.

When he lost his own appeal last week, Mr Noir resigned as an MP and announced his retirement from politics. From PPDA, not a word. From most of the media, not a peep.

Then, on Saturday, Liberation posed the question in a banner headline: PPDA peut-il rester? In most other democratic countries, there would be no question of him remaining, it said.TF1 was not so much violating journalistic principles, said the paper, it was refusing to accept that such principles existed. "Where are we? In Zaire? In some banana republic?" Liberation quoted a television colleague of PPDA as saying.

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