The Changing Organization of the Tour
de France and its Media Coverage—An
Interview with Jean-Marie Leblanc


The  special  nature  of  Jean-Marie  Leblanc’s  working  life—as  a  Tour
rider,  as  a  Tour  journalist  and  now  as  Tour  organizer—gives  a
particularly well-informed perspective on the Tour de France. Indeed,
the current managing director of the Société du Tour (born 1944) was
initially  a  rider  for  the  amateur  teams  of  the  Northern  region  of
France  around his  birthplace,  and then a professional  rider  for  four
years, finishing 65th and 85th in the Tours of 1968 and 1970. During
his time with the professional teams, he was also a trainee reporter at
the Voix du Nord, a major French regional daily newspaper, which he
joined  as  a  fulltime  journalist  in 1971  to  cover  both boxing  (he  had
obtained  a  training  diploma  in boxing  at  the  end  of  the  1960s)  and
cycling. He followed the Tour for the Voix du Nord in 1974 and 1976,
and then from 1978 for the French daily sports newspaper L’Equipe,
as  head  of  cycling  coverage.  Finally,  he  started  his  career  in  the
organization  of  the  Tour  by  taking  the  post  of  directeur  des
competitions  (director  of  racing)  in  1988,  and  then  by  becoming
directeur  général  (managing  director)  in  1994.  This  highly-informed
view of the Tour1 provides us with a better understanding of how the
Tour de France—like other ‘events’—is co-produced by its organizers
with,  increasingly,  the  reporters  who  follow it;  in  other  words,  how
this  spectacle  is  nowadays  aimed  as  much  at  the  media  audiences
(readers, listeners and viewers) as at those who attend the race itself.
The evolution of television channels in France and across the world
in the 1980s  and 1990s—as  the first  part  of  the interview reveals—
strongly  contributed  towards  changes  in  the  overall  financial
organization of  the race through the rise of  marketing and corporate
hospitality,  changes  to  income  streams  brought  by  exclusive
television rights and the appearance of ever more numerous sponsors.
The exponential growth in media coverage of the Tour—which is more