PARIS (AFP) — French star news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor bows out Thursday after 21 years to make way for a glamorous younger rival, amid suggestions President Nicolas Sarkozy may have influenced the shake-up.
Known in France by his initials "PPDA", the 60-year-old Poivre d'Arvor Thursday hosts his last news broadcast on private channel TF1, the country's most-watched news with a daily audience of some 10 million viewers.
The channel announced last month that he will hand over after the summer break to Laurence Ferrari, a 41-year-old blonde TV host, as part of an image revamp to fight a ratings slump.
French media and opposition politicians suggested at the time that Sarkozy -- a close friend of TF1's owner, the business magnate Martin Bouygues -- had played a part in PPDA's ouster.
Several newspapers reported that Sarkozy apparently let it be known he would be happy to see Ferrari in the job, while others reported PPDA had offended the president by likening him to a "little boy" in an interview.
Sarkozy's ruling UMP party has denied any interference with the nomination, which coincides with a controversial overhaul of French broadcasting that would see the government appoint the head of public television.
PPDA told France Inter radio on Thursday there was "no objective" reason for his dismissal, but declined to comment on "rumours" of political interference.
The news anchor's departure marks the end of an era in France, where his television career stretches back to the mid-1970s. A puppet version of PPDA has for years hosted France's popular satirical news show, Les Guignols.
Over the years, Poivre d'Arvor bounced back from a string of scandals -- most spectacularly in 1991 over the broadcast of a faked interview with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, edited from snippets of a press conference.
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