Etienne Mougeotte, the man who shaped the face of TF1 for 20 years

Etienne Mougeotte and TF1 is the story of an almost missed event. In 1987, when the first channel was privatized, he indeed worked for Jean-Luc Lagardère, who dreamed of acquiring it. It is ultimately the Bouygues group that wins. Seduced by his profile, the big boss Francis Bouygues gave him the vice-presidency and then the program management, which he would not leave for 20 years.

At the time, this former student of Sciences Po Paris, originally from Charente, already had a solid career as a journalist behind him. From its beginnings to Paris Normandy on his way through France Inter, RTL and the ORTF, he climbed all the levels of an editorial team before joining the Matra-Hachette group, where he pilot TV 7 Days and Sunday Newspaper.

From 1974 to 1981, he was editor-in-chief and then director of information for Europe 1, which he carried to the top. There he crosses paths with Robert Namias, Charles Villeneuve and Jean-Claude Dassier, three men whom he will find at TF1 under the leadership of its CEO Patrick Le Lay. Together, they form a duo that has entered the history of television, raising the channel to a level never before seen in Europe – up to 30% of viewers and more than 50% of the advertising market.

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Equally at ease with news and entertainment

When composing the program schedule for the private channel, this opera enthusiast clearly distinguishes between his personal tastes and those of the public. He has, it must be said, a remarkable flair for popular entertainment, worn by animators who become stars in homes. Jean-Pierre Foucault with “Sacré Soirée”, Christophe Dechavanne with “Ciel, mon mardi!”, Nicolas Hulot with “Ushuaïa”, the “Star Academy” with Nikos Aliagas, “Koh-Lanta” with Denis Brogniart or even Dorothée and Les Motherfuckers …

TF1 under the Mougeotte era is also establishing itself as a reference in terms of information on TV, with emblematic presenters such as Jean-Pierre Pernaut, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor and Claire Chazal, between requirement and proximity. “Etienne never forgot that he was a journalist, and whatever I asked on the air, we discussed it and it was accepted. With a boss who was not from this culture, it was unthinkable“, explains Robert Namias, at the head of the drafting of TF1 during the Mougeotte years.

He was a real press boss, a professional who had a vision and the requirement for clarity“, confirms Thierry Thuillier, the current news director of the TF1 group, who after joining the editorial staff in 1990, lived alongside him the entry of France into the Gulf War.”He always told us that a good newscast should allow the viewer to understand the meaning of the news..”

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In 1994, Etienne Mougeotte ticked off the countdown to the launch of LCI, the first news channel in France. In a corner of the control room, there is a certain David Pujadas, today at the helm of the 6 pm-8pm segment. “I met him for the first time when I arrived on TF1, in 1988“, remembers the latter.”I was 23 years old, he was very impressive, by voice and by authority. He was a boss and a journalist at the same time, that we always saw appearing in the big meetings.”

I am sometimes asked how I did it here and there. The constant is the same: obsession and respect for the public. It has always been my compass. Not out of demagogy, but out of conviction– Etienne Mougeotte in “Pouvoirs”, in 2021

Etienne Mougeotte left the TF1 group in spring 2007. Having become a communications consultant, he supported Nonce Paolini, Patrick Le Lay’s successor for a time, before joining Le Figaro and to take the direction of the editorial staff until 2012. He will then be managing director of Radio Classique until 2018. Last February, the one who had suffered for a long time from throat cancer had recounted his career within the media in Powers, published by Calmann-Lévy editions.

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I am sometimes asked how I did it here and there. The constant is the same: obsession and respect for the public. It has always been my compass. Not out of demagogy, but out of conviction“, he wrote there.”The ratings, the OJD figures of the written press, internet audiences are never more than a permanent reflection of the choices made by the public when buying a newspaper, listening to a radio, connecting to a site or watching a TV channel. television. My recipes, if there are any, are there.”

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