The first reality television show on French television was broadcast on April 26th 2001. 'Loft Story', a French remake of the 'Big Brother' format, caused a scandal and provoked endless debate and discussion among both the public and academics. One critic even claimed it marked a descent into “fascism”. Twenty years later the genre has become a standard part of TV viewing. Participants in some of the top-rated shows have become professionals with large incomes, working as 'influencers' who promote brands on social networks. François Bougon reports on the history of reality TV in France.
After predictable procedural wrangles – plus some unforeseen delays – the long-awaited Bettencourt trial got under way in Bordeaux last week. Those on trial, who include a former minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's government, stand accused of either directly preying on the frailty of L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt or of profiting from it. Eight of the accused gave evidence during the week, all struggling to hide their dismay at being in the dock. The first was writer and photographer François-Marie Banier, a close confidant of Bettencourt from whom he received some 414 million euros, and who told the court he understands nothing about the world of money and business. “I'm not a spoilt child or a dandy,” he insisted. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan was in court to witness the start of this extraordinary trial.