Nicolas Mamier enjoys a giggle reading Le Canard Enchaine
‘Politics is not an exact science.’ This remark by Otto von Bismarck
remains true today and explains why 2.7 million (Sosres national
survey figures) French people read Le Canard Enchaine every Wednesday.
They want to revel in the blunders of national politicians.
Although Le Canard Enchaine is a satirical newspaper, it is deadly
serious too. The revelations of malpractice in its pages have often led
to ruin, dishonour and even the suicides of high-profile politicians.
People speak of ‘Tuesday fever’ on the day the newspaper goes to press -
a day when nobody will risk commenting on anything for fear of an
‘It’s the French equivalent of Private Eye,’ I hear you say. But can
Private Eye pride itself on such illustrious (and often anonymous)
contributors as Prince Sianoukh of Cambodia (while in exile in Paris) or
even President Mitterand? Apparently, the late President always
introduced his tip-offs over the phone in the same way: ‘Dear Sir, you
cannot possibly ignore...’
Founded in 1915 to counter government war propaganda, Le Canard has
forged a strong readership over the years, even during the decade of
socialist rule. Today it is a genuine representation of the fourth
estate - the independent press. Its motto translates as: ‘The freedom of
the press only wears thin if it isn’t used.’
What makes Le Canard so objective? A rapid calculation reveals the full
picture: it sells at 8FF (more than pounds 1) for eight pages, and in
1995 it sold an average of 638,000 copies a week. In short, it is very
And with such a profitable publication, there is no need to sell
adspace. What, no advertisers? Yes, an ad-free paper. So why bother to
review it then? Because no visitor to France should venture into a
Parisian ‘conversation de salon’ without reading this ‘ammunition’
Feared and respected by the likes of Le Monde and Le Figaro (indeed no-
one, it seems, dares to criticise or write about Le Canard) the
publication stands alone as the enfant terrible of the French press.
So, the next time you go to Paris with a fat expense account, grab a
copy of Le Canard, open your French dictionary, settle down and I
guarantee that you’ll start giggling in business class.
Nicolas Mamier is the French-born new-business manager of Bates Europe
and Bates Dorland
Circulation 638,000 (1995 average)
Readership from the student to the President