Excluded. The astonishing reason why Claire Chazal could not announce the death of Lady Di on the air

Excluded.  The astonishing reason why Claire Chazal could not announce the death of Lady Di on the air

On Sunday August 31, 1997, at dawn, it was the face Robert Namiasthen news director of TF1, who appears in the small skylight, with a serious face, announcing the unthinkable to viewers: the death of princess dianavictim ofa traffic accident under the Alma tunnel in Paris. Twenty-five years later, this news professional looks backstage at this crazy night and on this extraordinary current event, which had led the front page, four years before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to break its antenna to switch to a special edition like a continuous news channel. At the time, this was far from commonplace, especially for a large general-interest channel! His story.

“I gave the instruction to call Claire”

Around 3 a.m. on that famous night, I received a first phone call alerting me to an accident involving Princess Diana that had happened at the Alma. Around 4:30 a.m., the extreme seriousness of his injuries became apparent. I started mobilizing the editorial staff“, he recalls.

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He pursues : “The rule was that the 1 p.m. presenter should be on duty at night, in case exceptional news arises. I instructed the watch reporter to call Claire to let her know that we might be leaving for the special edition very soon. In the meantime, taken perhaps by intuition, I took a bath, shaved, grabbed a tie, although in principle I’m not on the air. I lived not far from TF1, a few minutes later, I was in the writing.

It was a big mobilization. We had to bring in the teams to produce the newspaper, we needed people to do the reporting and the commentary. The minutes ticked away, but Claire Chazal remained unreachable. Meanwhile, the first dispatch announcing the death of Lady Di had already fallen. As news director, by delegation of Patrick Le Lay and Etienne Mougeotte, I had authority to open the antenna. I decided to announce Diana’s death myself. We opened the antenna at 6 o’clock. There was radio, but on TV we were the first and the only ones (Bruce Toussaint also intervened on Canal+, and France 2 broadcast a shorter special flash, editor’s note)… and we held this special edition for a good part of the day. After five or six hours of presentation, I ended up handing over to Claire Chazal a little before her usual 1 p.m.“, tells us Robert Namias.

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“We showed how a large general-interest channel could feed the antenna continuously”

A feat that marked this information professional: “In the 1990s, we innovated a lot on the flexibility of the antenna, we introduced more immediacy and speed, despite the heaviness of the instrument. But it was not used at that time to have people who improvised for several hours on the air… The real event which marked this irruption of continuous information before the big band of the chains of information, will remain that of the attacks of September 11, but Diana will remain as a kind of “rehearsal”. We showed how a large general-interest channel could feed the antenna continuously.”

More intimate and personal anecdote, Robert Namias remembers this testimony received when he left the antenna, this August 31, 1997: “Philippe Seguin, then president of the National Assembly, had me carry a note during the day, written by his own hand, and which said, in essence: “I was in front of my TV from 6 a.m. Hats off to the artist! “Nice, right?

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