The French media landscape

Friday, 9 September 2011

Kiosk

The Tour de France is such a big event that you’d think cycling is a big sport in France. Perhaps but it’s a long way from other sports. Here’s a scan across the airwaves, news stands and servers.

TV
France has six principle TV channels and sister channels France 2 and France 3 cover cycling. They show 150 hours in total but it’s deceptive because much of this is dedicated to the Tour de France. In rough terms, it’s about 100 hours for the Tour de France, meaning the remaining 50 hours soon gets spread thinly over Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné, the Spring Classics and the Worlds. There’s no coverage of the Giro or Vuelta, indeed when Sylvain Chavanel took the lead in the Vuelta the other day the daily “Tout le Sport” show (All Sport) dedicated 12 seconds to this national triumph. All this is good for a public channel but if you’re abroad, don’t get the impression that cycling is a big sport.

The main rival to France Télévisions is TF1 which is in the same corporate stable as Eurosport. The cable and satellite channel broadcasts a lot more hours… but to a reduced audience. In my view the commentary is better but that’s a question of taste.

Newspapers
If you want pro news then L’Equipe is brilliant. It is a daily sports newspapers with several cycling writers and even in the depth of winter you’ll find a few paragraphs. During the July the coverage is superb, a fine way to start to the day. It is from the same Amaury corporate stable as ASO, organisers of the Tour de France.

Next, France’s best selling newspapers are regional. Ouest-France covers the west of France and Britanny and it has some good writing, including plenty of local race coverage and the same is true for other regional newspapers. These papers are part of the sport, La Voix du Nord organisers the 4-Days of Dunkerque, Ouest-France backs the GP Plouay and until recently Le Dauphiné sponsored a long race.

The country’s two leading broadsheet national papers are Le Figaro and Le Monde but don’t expect too much. Le Figaro doesn’t print anything new, chances are if you’re reading this blog you visit the likes of cyclingnews.com or L’Equipe already so you won’t find much in Le Figaro. Same for Le Monde, except they do tend to like a doping scandal; at times they can be damning with cycling but their investigatory work has its merits too.

Magazines
I can’t verify the stat but I think France has more magazines per capita than almost anywhere else. There’s an ample selection of cycling magazines.

Vélo Magazine is produced by Amaury but hires a range of writers. It’s generally good and covers pro racing and a snapshot of the amateur scene, as well as a growing focus on consumer reviews and the cyclosportif rides. Personally I like it.

Le Cycle

Le Cycle

Le Cycle is heavily focused on bike reviews, testing several bikes in each monthly edition. They use a lab to test bikes for their rigidity, a useful way to avoid bike test bias. In addition there’s plenty of tips for riding and a monthly destination, usually within France with routes to ride. There’s no coverage of racing.

In addition there are several others. Top Vélo is similar to Le Cycle, La France Cycliste is produced by the French Cycling Federation and focussed on the French racing scene and there are several others.

Online
L’Equipe’s website is useful but for brief news rather than deeper coverage. Instead velochrono.fr and cyclismactu.net seem the top two websites. I once joked on twitter that the difference between these two sites was only a matter of seconds. As soon as a race is finished or some other news breaks, these two websites sprint to deliver the news. The cover pro racing in full, as well as some other local racing and riding. Velo101 used to be good but seems to have slipped behind, at least in my personal take but they cover more of the cyclo scene.

Radio and podcasts
There are no podcasts I can think of. The excellent RTL-Equipe radio show has stopped meaning there’s almost zero audio coverage of pro cycling.

When a major race is on you will find live radio coverage, for example Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de France, on several radio stations. RMC Info is the most sports-orientated station and you’ll find Europe 1, RTL and France Info cover races too. France Info’s Fabrice Rigobert covers cycing for the rolling radio news station and he brings reports throughout the year on the sport.

Summary
L’Equipe is good amongst the general sources but if you want daily pro cycling coverage, it pays to specialise. Whilst you might think of France as a land of big races, the coverage isn’t as big, especially when the Tour de France is not on. Cycling trails behind soccer, often sitting alongside tennis, athletics and rugby. But even finding results from the Vuelta in the mainstream media can be awkward.

Paddy September 9, 2011 at 10:46 am

Very good. I

Velo Peloton September 9, 2011 at 10:49 am

Very good. As someone who lives in France I agree wholeheartedly with you. The site I like a lot that you have not mentioned is http://www.directvelo.com it has live text coverage of all the smaller races that don’t get on telly, such as Route du Sud.

P. Kirby September 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I’m wondering which American cycling magazines you think are good. I subscribe to Bicycling and am tiring of how they always talk about “training”. I’m not training for anything; I’m riding my road bike because I enjoy it. But are any of the other ones out there any better?

Jay T September 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm

P. Kirby,

It’s not American, but ProCycling for me is one of the best. It’s a nice big size, beautifully made, great photography, excellent writers. Bicycling Magazine has its purpose, but I think it’s better for people newer to cycling; if you read it for several years it becomes a little redundant as your knowledge of the sport increases. I also get Peloton Magazine, which has great writers and a huge range of stories; it is a little more affordable and thus the size and printing of it are a little less flashy.

Rich September 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm

P. Kirby, Bicycling professes to to be the entry gate for new cyclists. Nothing more.Try VeloNews and ProCycling magazines. The challenge for magazines are that they have to get away from providing dated information in this new digital age.

Inrng actually provides some of the best insight I have ever read and he doesn’t need an editor. He is quite the enigma as he writes as if he has access to ex racers, officials, teams staff and he mixes all that information with a bit of wit that you would expect from Bike Snob.

The traditional cycling reporters don’t pass on enough information even though they are supposedly living alongside the riders and teams and I believe all they do is steal each others information because as you go from one website to the other it’s all the same dribble. They just write their daily story to get their check and move on to the bars.

One guy(reporter) that does actually work his butt off that I follow is James Huang(BikeRadar and Cyclingnews. He is a self professed workaholic who actually lives up to the billing.

Larry T. September 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Rouleur is the only magazine I find worth paying for, I’d pay twice the price if I had to! Everything else in English is merely typing to fill in between the pages of ads. In Italy Bicisport and Cicloturismo are the only ones worth reading. I used to think these Italian magazines translated into English would be a big hit in the USA but their attitude is so far removed from the North American idea I no longer believe this. Haven’t spend much time in France in many years but remember one year while following the Giro d’Italia we stayed in a hotel just over the border as the race finished in Briancon….but could find NOTHING on TV about the Giro. I believe in general the French pay attention to cycling pretty much only during July when the TdF comes round. Otherwise they don’t seem to care much these days and the quality of their riders and teams reflect this….Bernard Hinault is still the last Frenchman to win Le Beeg Shew after all.

P. Kirby September 9, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Thanks to all for their varied responses. Guess I need to go magazine shopping…

STB September 9, 2011 at 9:31 pm

It sounds similar to how tennis is treated in the UK. Blanket coverage for two weeks during July for Wimbledon, very little else the rest of the year, unless a plucky Brit is nearly in the final of a major tournament. Everyone knows about Wimbledon, less people know about tennis.

Cycling in the UK is on the up, with better coverage by the BBC (mainly track orientated due to the Olympics) and ITV with improved coverage of the Tour de France and the Tour of Britain. Quite surprising that the UK has better TV coverage of the Vuelta than France.

Martin du Blog de l'Ardoisier September 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Excellent article! But I liked to see two other parties:
– On twitter, follow the excellent Jacky Durand, Patrick Chassé and Cedric Vasseur
– Some blogs to read what we will not have elsewhere : La Flamme Rouge, Velowire, Le Portail du Vélo and … Le Blog de l’Ardoisier :-)

Cd September 10, 2011 at 3:52 am

What happened to Miroir du Cyclisme? I used to try and read that in college when there was no Internet and Velonews was pretty much b/w and winning would report on races 2 months later. Also my French was better then.

The Inner Ring September 11, 2011 at 10:22 am

Larry: easy on the Francophobia! The Giro was on Eurosport in full coverage every day and L’Equipe would serve you well. ;-)

Martin: yes, some good links there including yours! J-P Brouchon too.

CD: it went bust. It was part of a publishing group belonging to the French communist party which gradually shrunk in size and eventually Le Miroir went.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: