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Monday, 17 June 2013

François Hollande and Zahia, the former "courtesan"

Don't worry.

Before you get your hopes up too high, this is not a piece disclosing a scandal involving the French president François Hollande and the Algerian-born former prostitute Zahia Dehar.

There's no "liaison" - illicit or otherwise - between the two other than the fact that both appeared on French television on Sunday evening.

Hollande was invited by host Thomas Sotto onto M6's fortnightly economics magazine "Capital".

François Hollande (screenshot "Capital" M6)

And Zahia (first name only as that's the one by which she is best known) had a 13-minute one-on-one interview with Thierry Demaizière on TF1's much lighter weekly show "Sept à huit".

Different time slots admittedly for the two programmes and very different content and contrasting fortunes in terms of viewing figures.

Hollande was keeping a presidential campaign promise he made in the run-up to the May 2012 elections when he first appeared on "Capital" and promised Sotto to return if elected.

There was plenty to talk about since the two men had last appeared together on the programme and Hollande was quizzed on a number of issues including, among other things (Le Figaro has helpfully provided a transcript of the "best of" moments complete with videos if you're so inclined), pensions, unemployment, public spending cuts, the future of Stéphane Richard at the head of Orange and, as the news broke, his reaction to the Socialist party being knocked out in the first round of the by-election to find a successor to the disgraced former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac.

Meaty political and economic stuff for sure and, although important in the grand scheme of things, hardly gripping viewing.

Meanwhile a few hours earlier over on TF1, the much more appealing subject of sex had reared its head as Demaizière questioned the woman, who four years ago at the age of 17,  had been at the centre the underage prostitution scandal with French football internationals Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema.

Zahia (screenshot from TF1 "Sept à huit" interview)

Nice timing as the case will be heard in Paris's criminal court on Tuesday in what The Guardian calls, "A tale of footballers, sex and the Paris catwalk."

It was, in the words of "Sept à huit" presenter Harry Roselmack who introduced the report, "a revealing and sometimes touching portrait" in which the now 21-year-old proved herself to be more than just a "living doll with voluptuous curves."

Zahia was now "all grown up" and able to talk frankly and articulately (???) about her childhood in Algeria, her time spent as an underage "courtesan" (a term she preferred to that of "call girl") and how she had managed to rebuild her life after "that" scandal to become the model and businesswoman she is today.

Yes it was rivetting stuff, slickly put together and so much more interesting than watching several hours of bumbling Hollande trying to explain his way out of the proverbial paper bag.

And the viewing figures pretty much told the whole story of what really grabs people's attention.

Just over 2.8 million tuned in to watch their president live on TV, while 3.2 million were in front of their screens to see and hear and shed a tear with the comeback story of a modern-day Cinderella.

Here's a thought. Perhaps Zahia's communications people could help Hollande's communications people boost his popularity ratings.

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