24-hour channel gives world French perspective

4th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 5, 2006 (AFP) - France enters the increasingly competitive international television news market Wednesday with the launch of France 24 — a round-the-clock network in French and English with a brief to broadcast a different perspective on world events.

PARIS, Dec 5, 2006 (AFP) - France enters the increasingly competitive international television news market Wednesday with the launch of France 24 — a round-the-clock network in French and English with a brief to broadcast a different perspective on world events.

Parallel channels in the two languages will start transmitting from the station's headquarters in the Paris suburbs at 8:30 pm (1930 GMT) via an Internet site. Exactly 24 hours later the service becomes available also on cable and satellite.

Details of the launch were being kept under wraps, but journalists on the station said there were plans for an outside broadcast from the historic Place de la Concorde in central Paris including an interview with President Jacques Chirac.

The president was heavily involved in promoting the new channel, after he was angered by the prevalence of American and British viewpoints aired on the English-language market-leaders CNN and BBC World in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

According to a charter signed by France 24's 170 journalists, the mission of the channel is "to cover international news with a French perspective ... and to carry the values of France throughout the world."

These values are defined by France 24 as "debate, argument, confrontation, defence of multilateralism, secularism, solidarity, respect, freedom of speech, the art of living, culture, fashion, gastronomy".

The channel says it will provide extra coverage of Africa and other poor parts of the world which it says are under-reported on the main international channels.

The format — identical in the two languages — will be based on half-hourly news bulletins, interspersed with filed reports, round-table discussions and themed programmes. Arabic broadcasts are to be added early next year, and Spanish will follow.

Three years of arguments over the new station's funding and status ended in a compromise under which France 24 is run jointly by the private operator TF1 and state-owned France Televisions, with the French tax-payer providing the annual budget of 86 million euros (114 milion dollars).

By comparison CNN has a vastly larger budget of 900 million euros and BBC World 600 million euros. To make up its shortfall, France 24 plans to draw on the networks of foreign correspondents run by Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale.

In addition to the two main English-language broadcasters, France 24 also seeks to rival the Qatar-based al-Jazeera which last month began broadcasting in English as well as Arabic.

Media analysts welcomed the increased diversity offered by France 24, but were sceptical of the notion of a specifically French perspective on the news.

"I think that idea is humbug," said Jack Doppelt, director of journalism studies at Medill University in Chicago and a visiting professor at the School of Political Sciences in Paris.

"Certainly it is worthwhile to aspire to cover under-reported parts of the world. But to say that only we French know how to bring Africa to the world's attention is a grotesque post-colonial misunderstanding of how modern communications work," he said.

"France 24 is a product of the idea that existing news is Anglo-Saxon and 'unipolar'. But no-one has ever satisfactorily explained what 'multipolar' news is," said French media consultant Jean-Louis Missika.

Missika also warned of potential conflict with government if issues deemed to be of national interest are in the news.

"Things will not be easy at France 24 because there is no tradition of independence. BBC World manages to mix public service with independence, but it is drawing on more than 50 years experience. It is not something that is easy to replicate," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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