A page of history turns to Radio-Canada with the departure on Saturday of Joël Le Bigot, the rooted king of radio waves on weekends for almost 25 years. The emotion was palpable in the ICI Première studios, where many of his former collaborators had gathered to pay homage to the “last of the intractable”. Yet the rebellious animator has always kept away from the world of the media, which he criticizes without embarrassment.
After more than 50 years of career, Joël Le Bigot has come to the conclusion that the information environment has not evolved for the better. He hates social networks, avoids continuous information channels, but above all he hates politically correct. The 76-year-old host fears that his successors will never aspire to the freedom of tone that has been his lifelong leitmotif. Who could stand up to the bosses without enjoying Joël Le Bigot’s popularity?
“I never stopped myself from speaking, even though I know it upset the management. In fact, disturbing the management was a pleasure for me. But now, the animators are being watched, «she complains with the verve that we know him.
Joël Le Bigot does not spare Radio-Canada, which it accuses of having strayed from its international mandate in recent decades. Every day too much importance is given to news which, in his opinion, are not news. Various facts, semantic debates and other Byzantine controversies that go on for days: Joël Le Bigot has never given them importance.
This convinced nationalist, who makes no secret of having voted yes in 1980 and 1995, also questions the Pan-Canadian mandate of the public broadcaster, which must reflect the reality of Canadians from coast to coast in its news coverage.
“Hearing of a false tornado for eight minutes is nothing new. It’s news for a minute, then we should move on to something else, international news, Africa for example. Cris! There’s a fire in Bathurst and it’s shown to us on TV, that’s not normal. Talking to us about the opioid crisis in Vancouver is fine. But why piss us off when someone drops a fire hydrant in Alberta? Joël Le Bigot gets carried away by this gritty humor that his listeners have come to appreciate.
That said, Radio-Canada has never tried to expel him, recognizes the new retiree. And for good reason, it has allowed ICI Première to remain at the top of the Saturday morning rankings, poll by poll, for nearly a quarter of a century.
This sometimes disarming straightforwardness, which led him to success, has nevertheless kept the government company’s ombudsman busy in recent years. In 2019 Joël Le Bigot was reprimanded for rejoicing in the murder in India of a Christian missionary by the isolated Sentinels tribe, whom he was trying to evangelize. The guest, who never hid his hostility towards religions, had also received a reproach a few years earlier for having made observations that suggested that there was a link between pedophilia and Islam.
“There is a good woman who complained about something I said about Islam. Only one ! If 20 people said I went too far, then I wouldn’t have a problem apologizing. But for each complaint, we are only talking about one person. It is a pity that the Ombudsman defends the interests of Radio Canada rather than those of the public, “insists the man who claims to have maliciously enjoyed throughout his career to” always be on the line “in his remarks.
rain of praise
This style, very singular for the Radio-Canada antenna, earned him his share of detractors throughout his career. He has been accused of being antiquated, even reactionary. For lack of objectivity. To be disrespectful, especially towards the women on his team.
Joël Le Bigot has always been completely indifferent to these reproaches. But among his collaborators, we know that for some people it was fashionable to hate the guest Saturday and nothing else.
“Even though he teases us, even though he can be tough and he can cut things, he has always been very respectful. For me he is the patriarch of the radio. When I started the show about him, I was scared, because I had heard all kinds of things. But it turns out that, under his grumpy looks, there is someone listening. Who leads his collaborators to be better », corrects the much admired cultural columnist Ariane Cipriani.
Sentiment shared by Francine Grimaldi, a faithful collaborator until her retirement in 2019.
“He had the generosity to put others in the spotlight. He never really showed off, even though he has a phenomenal culture. There aren’t many animators left with such a level of knowledge, ”points out the former columnist, who believes that Joël Le Bigot is simply irreplaceable.