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Les francs-tireurs (#34)

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In French, a “franc-tireur” can have two different English meanings;  a “sniper” (mostly a military-type sniper), or a “maverick” (in the sense of a rebellious person seeking to throw a cog in someone’s wheels, or be a thorn in someone’s side regarding issues of importance).

The Télé-Québec interview show Les franc-tireurs probably has a closer fit to the “maverick-type” definition, although they definitely pull out a sniper’s scope when they decide to delve into certain issues.

You’ll recall I wrote an earlier blog post on the subject of Radio-Canada’s interview show Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP).   Well, if TLMEP had an alter-ego on a competing network, Les francs-tireurs would be it.  However, the show’s format is very different from TLMEP.  It’s not filmed in front of a live audience, and it most often features one-on-one interviews with the host seated in a chair directly facing his seated guest, knee-to-knee.

The show has had four main hosts/interviewers during its 15 years on air.   They are all well-known personalities in their own right as political & current-events columnists/commentators/journalists in the newpaper, television and radio press;  Benoît Dutrizac, Richard Martineau, Laurent Saulnier, and Patrick Lagacé.   Of these four, the current host, Benoît Dutrizac, has hosted the show for many years (although he left the show for a few years, but now is back).  Richard Martineau is also one of the current hosts.

Invitees are generally political personalities, newsmakers, or figures who have some public controversial aspect to them.  The questions asked of the interviewer will often have a sarcastic, cynical and political feel to them, and can therefore ruffle feathers if certain political camps, individuals or groups feel they’ve been targeted.    Nonetheless, the show is hugely popular, and its hosts, past and present, are regularly invited on television and the radio to give their views.  — They have the public’s attention —

The questions asked of the interviewees are very pointed, direct, frank, and sometimes nasty… especially if you get the feel that the host’s political views differ from those of the person being interviewed.   But at other times, certain interviewees seem to get off easy – which is why the show might be considered to have a political bias.  Personally, when I see that a guest or topic is taking a nasty thrashing, or se faire varlopper (in this case the French word probably fits better here than the English one), I can’t help but wonder if the interviewer is simply playing a very cruel devil’s advocate, of if the interviewer really has it out for the guest or the topic being discussed (especially if people from the same political camps or topic of discussion seem to be subject to the the same treatment over and over).

Regardless, the public knows guests will often be asked very intense questions, and topics of controversy will be scrutinized to the letter.   It should stand to reason that the public is interested in viewing how the episode will unfold, and so it should come as no surprise that Les francs-tireurs is one of the most popular, quoted, and talked about current events interview programs on television in Québec.   It also stands to reason that the show would hold political sway with the audience – especially if certain figures or topics come off in a negative light.  Those who don’t fare so well on this program may even suffer when it comes to polling time (never forget that holding a pop-culture microphone means holding soft power).

If you agree with the interviewer’s line of questioning, then wonderful — you’ll enjoy hearing the answers.   But, even if you don’t agree with the direction the interviewer takes the interview, the show will offer you a new and different perspective which will make you think of issues in a whole new light.   Objectively speaking, the interviewer’s questions are intelligent, thought provoking, sharp, and well laid out.  All-in-all, Les frans-tireurs represents arguments which are constantly put before the Québec public, and which are regularly discussed, debated, and important in Québec.

As a guy who considers himself as a rural-bred, Anglophone Albertan who’s been around the block a few times, here’s my message to Federal politicians of all political stripes (I’m not singling out any one political party), especially if you feel you’re having difficulty getting or maintaining a foothold in Québec:  All of us who hold a Canadian passport are taking this journey together which we call “Canada”.  So I would strongly recommend that you pay attention to this show, take notes, and learn from it.  To fall out of touch with many of the issues and arguments brought to light in this program frankly means you will not be in touch with much of your potential base electorate, to whom you are ultimately accountable, responsible, and to whom you’ve pledged to make their lives a bit better.  If you’re not up-to-speed or in tuned to the issues being discussed, it should therefore come as no surprise if you are left wondering why certain parts of your platforms run into a brick wall with this portion of the Canadian electorate.  As a politician for “all” Canadians (Striped, Polkadotted, Fracophone, Anglophone), if you haven’t taken the initiative to understand French — the “other” language of “your own” country, electorate and compatriots,  well…  you have parliamentary staff who do, and who can translate for you.

Les francs-tireurs airs on Télé-Québec Wednesday at 9pm, with rebroadcasts on Thursday at 1:30, Saturday at 8pm, and Tuesday at 11pm.  You can also watch the most recent episode online on Télé-Québec’s website by clicking HERE.


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