New French 24-hour news channel launches this evening
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006
The launch of France 24 - a round-the-clock network in French and English with a brief to broadcast news on world events with a French perspective - takes place this evening. Parallel channels in the two languages will start transmitting from the station’s headquarters in the Paris suburbs at 1930 UTC via the station’s website. Exactly 24 hours later the service becomes available also on cable and satellite.
Details of the launch are being kept under wraps, but journalists on the station said there are plans for an outside broadcast from the historic Place de la Concorde in central Paris including an interview with President Jacques Chirac. French newspapers Le Parisien and Le Figaro today carried full-page colour ads promoting the new network and heralding its slogan: “All the news you’re not supposed to know.”
Chirac was heavily involved in promoting the new channel, after he was angered by the prevalence of British and US viewpoints aired by the English-language market-leaders BBC World and CNN in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has made a point of showing his support for the network by going to its headquarters in southwest Paris and recording the interview that will be broadcast amid the inaugural fanfare.
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”.
Alain de Pouzilhac, the head of the channel, has insisted that the network is “completely independent” of the French government and political groups, even as it attempts to cover the news “through French eyes”. 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 Télévisions, with the French tax-payer providing the annual budget of 86 million euros ($114 million). 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.
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