French-style CNN channel back on govt agenda

26th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 26 (AFP) - French plans to launch an all-news international television channel to rival CNN and the BBC will likely move forward, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Thursday, just weeks after casting doubts on the project because of its cost.

PARIS, Aug 26 (AFP) - French plans to launch an all-news international television channel to rival CNN and the BBC will likely move forward, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Thursday, just weeks after casting doubts on the project because of its cost.

"The goal set in this area by the president of the republic (Jacques Chirac) should be maintained," Barnier told a meeting of French ambassadors in Paris.

"In the battle of images being played out today - as we see in Iraq - our country must be present," he said.

An in-depth evaluation of the project, previously estimated to cost EUR 70 million (USD 85 million) annually for the first five years, was being made and should be concluded shortly, he said.

"I need a little time to examine it, especially the financial resources that will be required and how it will fit in with the other operators in our foreign audiovisual sector," Barnier said.

"We owe this to the architects of the project. We also owe this to the president of the republic and to all those who, around the world, are waiting to better learn the positions of our country."

The minister's declaration contrasted with his blunt statement on July 8 that "there is no money" to start the network.

Chirac last year ordered the plan for the channel, tentatively called the International News Network (CII under its French initials), off the ground amid feelings that the French global viewpoint was being ignored by the two main existing English-language channels that span the globe, especially in light of the US-British invasion and occupation of Iraq opposed by Paris.

The French government announced last September that the project was going ahead as a public-private hybrid made up of leading private television networkTF1 and state broadcaster France Televisions, and that it would be operational by "autumn or winter 2004".

The funding question may have received a boost by calculations that a sudden uplift in France's economy this year will translate to an extra EUR 5 billion in tax revenues.

The plans call for the network to beam French, Arabic and, "if possible", English to northern Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East, Central Asia and to the US city of New York, home to the United Nations.

It is to employ up to 150 journalists and rely on contributions from state radio network Radio France Internationale and Agence France-Presse, with the French foreign ministry likely in charge of its operation.

Other worldwide networks have sprung up in recent years to compete with CNN and the BBC, notably the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera station which started in1996 and which has an annual budget of USD 30 million.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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