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French CNN rival delayed by Brussels

Published on 08/04/2004

8 April 2004

PARIS – French president Jacques Chirac’s plan to launch a CNN-rivalling French 24-hour international news channel this year has been postponed because its state funding may flout European Union competition rules, according to a French press report.

European Commission Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has asked the French government to provide further information about the proposed financing of the channel, called CFII (French International News Channel), according to French daily Le Monde.

The French government plans to allocate a one-off sum of EUR 70 million in state aid to CFII, which is to be managed jointly by state-run France Televisions and the private French television station TF1.

The EUR 70 million French government aid for the channel, expected to see it through its first five years, could be rejected by Brussels unless it is convinced that the channel is a public service.

The project was first announced last year by President Jacques Chirac who is keen to establish French influence in international television news reporting, until now dominated by the United States’ CNN and Britain’s BBC.

The decision to set up CFII, which it is planned will broadcast in French, Arabic and English, was taken during the height of diplomatic tension over France’s opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

“This channel will encourage the expression of a French vision which is more necessary than ever in the world today,” French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said last September when the project was announced before parliament.

Raffarin has still not given the channel the go-ahead, despite the completion last December of a report by Nice mayor Bernard Brochand, tasked with drafting its structure.

Ghislain Achard, Director General of France Telelvions, told Le Monde that because it would take 12 months to prepare the launch of the channel, which can only begin after an official decree by the government, it is now only likely to begin broadcasting as of June 2005 at the earliest.

However, unnamed sources “close to EC Competition Comissioner Mario Monti” said the project “would no doubt be approved” after further clarifications, reported Le Monde, adding that French officials were confident that it would go ahead despite the delay.

CFII is to be staffed by 250 journalists using international correspondents from French press agency AFP and state-run Radio France International.

It is not expected to be offered to homes in France, where TF1 provides an all-news channel, LCI, but would beam to northern Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East and Central Asia. New York will also be able to pick it up because the channel intends to cover the United Nations based there.

© Expatica France News

Subject: French news