Lady Diana died on August 31, 1997. Claire Chazal could not announce the news on the air. Robert Namias, the former news director of TF1 explained why.
The night of August 30 to 31, 1997, will always remain in the memory of the English but also internationally. That night, Lady Diana died in a car accident in the tunnel under the Alma bridge in Paris while being chased by paparazzi. She was with her companion Dodi Al-Fayed who also died in the accident, as did their driver Henri Paul. On August 31, 1997, all the media announced the terrible news.
TF1 then decided to set aside the programs planned for a special edition on the mother of William and Harry all day, in the form of continuous news channels. That day, it was not Claire Chazal who announced the death, but Robert Namias, the former news director of TF1, and that for one reason in particular: as the news was confirmed at dawn, the journalist could not be reached. Tuesday August 16, Robert Namias confided in the subject.
“Around 3:00 a.m. on that famous night, I received a first phone call alerting me to an accident involving Princess Diana which had occurred at the Alma. Around 4:30 a.m., the extreme seriousness of her injuries turned out. I started to mobilize the editorial staff”he said before adding: “I instructed the watch journalist to call Claire to let her know that we might be leaving for the special edition very soon.” Indeed, at the time, the one who presented the 1 p.m. news had to be on duty at night in the event of exceptional news.
A big mobilization at TF1 for the death of Lady DI
While waiting for Claire Chazal’s response, Robert Namias quickly got ready and shaved before going to the editorial office, which was not very far from his home. “As director of news, by delegation from Patrick Le Lay and Etienne Mougeotte, I had the authority to open the antenna. I have decided to announce Diana’s death myself.” he thus explained. If the news had already been revealed in a first dispatch as well as on the radio, TF1 was the first television channel to make the announcement, at 6 a.m. August 31. The director of the channel then remained on the air for 5 or 6 hours before giving way to Claire Chazal who had arrived a little before 1 p.m.
For the news professional, what happened on TF1 that day was unprecedented. “The real event that marked this irruption of continuous information before the news channels will remain that of the attacks of September 11, but Diana will remain as a kind of “rehearsal”, he confided while revealing: “At that time, we weren’t used to having people improvising for several hours on the air…”