by: Shireen Cohen
The article was written in 2003 as part of the International Journal of the History of Sport. It discusses the nature of the Tour de France and how it adapted to different changes in media. It is an interview with former cyclist and journalist Jean-Marie LeBlanc.
LeBlanc begins by discussing what the Tour de France was like before radio and television coverage, when people relied mostly on the accounts of journalists for coverage of the race. He suggests that the accounts of the journalists may have been exaggerated and romanced. He continues to say there were three golden periods for the Tour, which were the introduction of three big phenomenons: text and photo, live commentary on the radio and television.
Television was pivotal to the Tour because it allowed for the Tour to also become an outlet to show the various landscapes and regions of France, which would be beneficial for tourism purposes. The coverage featured chateaus, bridges, cathedrals and more in the backdrop. Furthermore, television allowed for viewers to have some sort of emotional connection with the Tour. For example, when viewers see the cyclists splashing water on themselves to try and beat the heat or pushing themselves to cycle faster in the wet rain they feel some sort of empathy for the cyclists. Today, media coverage of the event has become much more advanced, thanks in part to the progress of technology. Today, coverage of the tour can be seen in 160-170 countries worldwide.
One of the most important events for the Tour was the selling of the exclusive rights to broadcast the event. With the sale of exclusive rights, came sponsorships for teams. The sponsorships had a positive economic impact for the organizers of the Tour.
As a result of the increased television coverage, the written press has had to change its strategy when trying to write about the Tour. Now the viewers have a better view of the race from their home TV-screens than the journalist would have from the sidelines of the actual event. For this reason, journalists need to focus more on analysis and explanation of the race and supplement the coverage with interviews, player facts, etc. Unfortunately, the general tendency of the younger journalists has been to avoid the explanations and analysis and stick solely to the supplements and facts.
LeBlanc also notes that the relationship between cyclists and journalists have changed as well. Now, the dynamics between the two are more “hurried,” considering the fact that “nowadays, there are more things to do, timetables are tighter and we’re more hurried.” To avoid misinformation and rumors from starting and spreading, the Tour organizers give material to different publications and journalists to incorporate in their writing.
1986 Tour de France Coverage, click here
2010 Tour de France Coverage, click here