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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Jean-Pierre who?

Veteran journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach is pretty well known to the French.

He has been around for seemingly donkey's years and has held several high profile posts in the French media including president of France Télévisions (December 1993 - June 1996), president of the parliamentary TV channel Public Sénat (December 1999 - April 2009) and directeur général (April 2005) and later president (until June 2008) of Europe 1 radio.

At 75 years of age, Elkabbach is still going strong and shows no signs of losing his tenacity and combativity as a journalist.

He currently has two programmes on Europe 1.

Firstly there's the Sunday morning "Le Grand Rendez-vous" in which he heads a team of four journalists who grill (in the nicest possible manner of course because this, after all, is France) an invited guest (usually, but not always, a politician) on the most pressing matters of the day or the past week.

And then there's his daily 10-minute slot starting at around 8.20 am on the station's morning show when he gets to go head-to-head with a "mover and a shaker" - again most often a politician.

The list of his most recent guests reads like a who's who of the French political stage: Ségolène Royal (no introductions necessary), Laurence Parisot (the still-head, but not for much longer, of the French employers' union MEDEF), the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso (all right so he's not exactly French) and the interior minister Manuel Valls are just a few of those who've faced Elkabbach so far this month.

On Tuesday it was the turn of Delphine Batho, France's (deep breath please) minister of ecology, sustainable development, and energy.

Jean-Pierre Elkabbach and Delphine Batho (screenshot Europe 1 radio)

Now Batho doesn't have a huge amount of experience of politics at a national level. Well she wouldn't really, as she's still only 40.

And although she has been an elected member of parliament since 2007 (taking over incidentally the seat previously held by Royal) her current job is her first big one in government.

That's unless you count the couple of weeks she spent as a junior minister in the justice ministry before the prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had a mini reshuffle shortly after June 2012 parliamentary elections.

Perhaps then, it was that lack of experience that had Batho flummoxed on Tuesday morning.

There again, maybe she had been out partying the previous working-non-working public holiday mess that is  lundi de Pentecôte.

Or it could just have been one of those moments that happens to all of us from time to time, because Batho didn't seem to be able to figure out who exactly was facing her in the studio.

As you can hear from the exchange in the accompanying video, she seemed convinced at times, that interviewing her was another Jean-Pierre - the Socialist party politician, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a former minister under both François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac and one year younger (as if it had anything to do with it) than his, on this occasion, apparently first-named mix-up, Elkabbach.

"Global warming is no longer speculation Jean-Pierre Chevènement, it's now a fact to be witnessed in several countries," said Batho.

"Who is Jean-Pierre Chevènement," asked Elkabbach, eliciting an immediate apology and correction from Batho.

Only for exactly the same thing to happen to her moments later.

Elkabbach gave as good as he got, deliberately borrowing names of ministers present (that of health, Marisol Touraine) and past (budget and higher education, Valérie Pécresse) to come up with two new "Delphines" during the course of the interview.

The pair seemed to enjoy the joshing around, but the initial confusion was most probably down to that irritating habit journalists and those being interviewed (in France) have of repeating the name of the person they're talking to several times throughout a conversation.

It's either a confrontational technique or one meant to play for time or avoid the pitfall of forgetting the other person's name (in which case, it doesn't always work), but how much easier and more entertaining it might be, if they just all called each other "darling" instead - well just for one day at least.

Delphine Batho confond Jean-Pierre Elkabbach et... par LeLab_E1

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