The French television show Objectif Monde focuses on a different societal theme once a month by calling on specialists and Francophone journalists from RTBF (Belgium), Radio Canada, RTS (Switzerland), France Télévisions, and TV5MONDE.
This investigative news show selects the best reports across a wide range of subjects from American politics to food and from climate change to the #MeToo movement, and artificial intelligence. Interview with Dominique Laresche, editor in chief and presenter.
France-Amérique: Objectif Monde is celebrating its first anniversary this month. What makes it unique?
Dominique Laresche: Objectif Monde is an investigation show produced in collaboration with four other Francophone media outlets in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada. Together we choose an overall theme and list the reports underway or already finished by each outlet. We then select extracts of shows and reports to offer different angles. It’s a collective project that embodies the Francophile identity of TV5MONDE. We aim to provide interplaying points of view in line with a common theme to create an overview of each topic.
You have already discussed themes such as the #MeToo movement, North Korea, food, and migration trends. How do you choose them?
Our themes have to be multilateral, Francophone, and current. We have to ensure we are not simply reporting the news, as Objectif Monde takes time to create and to translate. Focusing too much on the latest information would imply a loss of perspective and would lead us to produce shows that were already out-of-date by the time they were broadcast. The issue of populism is a very relevant subject with Jair Bolsonaro’s arrival in power in Brazil, the political situation in Italy, and the upcoming European elections. We may also use one episode to discuss the ageing of the population.
Each episode lasts 90 minutes. What are the advantages of this format?
I have noticed that the news makes people panic to the point that they sometimes ignore the media entirely. The flow information has intensified considerably over the last few years, and people can feel overwhelmed by everything they see and hear. We therefore have to take an educational approach and present potentially abstract subjects in simple, accessible terms.
The themes we discuss may first appear worrying, whether species extinction or North Korea. Through our approach we attempt to play down the gravity of the situation, soothe fears, and do away with conspiracy theories. I like to take my time. I am not looking for sensational reporting to boost audience numbers. Instead, I invite viewers to reflect calmly on a topic through 45 minutes of reports and 45 minutes of discussion in the studio. We are not claiming to know everything; we ask questions in the right way to remain accessible to as many people as possible. Don’t forget that we appeal to both Francophones and Francophiles, and that the show is translated into 14 languages.
Your last episode was about artificial intelligence, a subject that raises a number of questions and ethical debates. What approach did you take?
We are going to explain the principle of algorithms and demonstrate why our era is a “breaking point” or even a “robot revolution” according to some scientists. This subject offers many points to be covered, including the use of robots in medicine, the advantages they provide for neuroscience, and their role in retirement homes.
Artificial intelligence can be scary, conjuring up images of machines replacing humans and wiping out jobs, or of “killer robots” used to wage wars. France is the third most advanced country in robotics research after the United States and Japan. But in practical terms, it is lagging behind the rest of Europe.
Cultural differences can also be surprising. Robots are given funerals in Japan, they are major growth levers in China, and yet the French are struggling to integrate them into the economy. Our guests will be Axelle Lemaire, the former French minister for digital affairs, and Rodolphe Gelin, from SoftBank Robotics which designed Pepper, the world’s most famous robot.
You also discuss foreign politics. For example, your October 2018 episode was devoted to the United States.
Two years after Donald Trump was voted into office, we wanted to review how many of his campaign promises he had accomplished just before the midterm elections. We decided to present a different side of America far from New York or Washington. Our reporters traveled to Pennsylvania, the Rust Belt, and Illinois, among others. We observed two things through their investigations. First, the president has a mixed economic track record with as many jobs created as destroyed. Secondly, despite this artificial uptick, he has retained his electoral base and support from his voters has not wavered.
What are the advantages of working with France Télévisions, RTS, RTBF, and Radio Canada?
It’s fantastic! With this show it is impossible to offer an ethnocentric or even exclusively European vision, as our Belgian, Canadian, and Swiss partners all contribute a different point of view. The variety of reports also enables us to take each continent into account. We have both a Francophone and international vision to appeal to a much wider audience. TV5MONDE also has many viewers in Africa, for example.
Certain subjects such as Trump’s America and the environment are not conducive to a debate as the various angles and opinions are complementary.
However, our episode on the legalization of cannabis offers a glimpse of very different points of view. Canada is welcoming legalization with open arms, while the Swiss are adopting a far more measured approach. And the French have barely authorized the use of medical marijuana.
Why do you invite journalists onto the show to discuss their reports?
The reporters each have unique expertise and experience. Their contributions allow us to pick apart investigations and to analyze subjects while making them less alarming. Journalists often choose reports based on their own preferences and spend a long time working on certain themes. This was the case of reports about migration in our episode entitled “L’Exil à tout prix.”
What are the profiles of your guests?
I try to invite specialists with a wide-ranging vision. For the episode “SOS Planète en détresse” on climate change, Swiss balloonist Bertrand Piccard talked to us about the melting ice caps, the erosion of European and African coasts, and rising sea levels. Explorer Jean-Louis Etienne was the guest for “Alerte ! Les espèces animales disparaissent” and discussed the biological dimension of species extinction. He was able to offer research-based solutions that could be used to feed billions of people by 2050, while also taking into account the subject’s economic and human aspects.
=> Watch all the episodes of Objectif Monde online on TV5Monde.com.