After seeing a pilot show starring a minister who attends two live births with his midwife host, Raffarin issued a stern warning to his colleagues not to follow suit, reports said on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for Raffarin's office said the prime minister had not issued a formal ban on his cabinet taking part in "36 Hours", but had firmly advised against it.

"He would not advise them to appear in this show when it starts. But ... he's not called them individually. He's just said, positively, 'I advise you against appearing'," she said.

The show, which aims to make politicians seem less remote to increasingly disenchanted voters, plans to follow a volunteer member of the public for nearly two days as they go about their normal lives with a top politician in tow.

First bath


To avoid any salacious speculation, the minister assured another newspaper earlier this week that he had stayed at a hotel near his midwife host.

But Sunday's Le Parisien newspaper said Raffarin had been dismayed by the pilot programme in which Deputy Justice Minister Pierre Bedier, a close party ally of President Jacques Chirac, teamed up with a midwife in a working class Paris suburb.

The Journal de Dimanche weekly said Bedier attended two live births and gave one of the infants its first bath. To avoid any salacious speculation, the minister assured another newspaper earlier this week that he had stayed at a hotel near his midwife host.

Le Parisien quoted one Raffarin aide as saying "ministers have no business appearing in such shows" and that the prime minister felt they devalued politicians.

The prime minister's office told Reuters news agency it was unclear whether government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope would now take part in the show as previously planned.

Opposition Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande has already turned his nose up at the idea, saying reality television would debase politics and not make politicians more accessible to the country's increasingly disenchanted voters.

Reality television has taken off in France, where formats have included women battling to seduce a young millionaire and the tribulations of life at a fame academy for young singers.