|French news channel to challenge 'Anglo-Saxon' CNN, BBC: boss
Oct 31 1:18 PM US/Eastern
A round-the-clock international news channel France is to launch in December will challenge the "Anglo-Saxon" views spread by market leaders BBC and CNN by relying on "French values", the network's chief said.
France 24, as the network is called, will start broadcasting in English and French on the Internet on December 6 and then via satellite two days later, its chairman and chief executive, Alain de Pouzilhac, told Le Figaro newspaper.
Like its British and US rivals, it is homing in on "opinion leaders" around the world by dishing up a diet of news, features and discussion.
But those viewers, Pouzilhac claimed, have become increasingly "sceptical of the world vision offered by the Anglo-Saxons like BBC World and CNN International."
Instead, he asserted, they "are looking for contradictory opinions -- which is what France 24 is proposing by relying on French values."
He did not define what those values were in the interview, beyond saying that the channel would highlight "diversity (and)... confrontation, without forgetting the culture and French art of living."
Financed to the tune of 80 million euros (100 million dollars) a year by the state and run as a joint operation between France's top commercial and top public national TV networks, France 24 will start out as a minnow to the BBC or CNN, both of which have built up global networks and enjoy established reputations.
BBC World, the privately financed international arm of Britain's public broadcaster, has 250 staff and an undisclosed budget. CNN's US and international divisions employ 4,000 people and revenues of 860 million dollars (730 million euros).
Additionally, other players are entering the market, most notably the Arab network Al-Jazeera, which is to start broadcasting an English-language service from mid-November.
But Pouzilhac insisted there was room for the French channel.
"From its launch, France 24 will potentially reach 250 million individuals," and will be pumped into 500 hotels in 64 countries, he said.
It will be offered throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East and in the US cities of New York and Washington. Later, it plans to extend its broadcasts to all of North and South America and to Asia.
Staffed by 380 people -- including 170 bilingual journalists -- it will be relying in part on video footage and reporting provided by its managing companies, the TF1 private network and the state-owned France Televisions, as well as from partner organisations such as AFP and Radio France Internationale.
France 24 was conceived years ago as a pet project of President Jacques Chirac, who in February 2002 called for a "big international news channel in French able to rival the BBC and CNN."
The US-led invasion of Iraq pushed the project forward, because Chirac was reportedly miffed by the way CNN and the BBC presented France's opposition to the war.
Some reports in US media inaccurately stating that "Paris is burning" during the 2005 riots around France also nettled his government.
Chirac has said he hoped the channel would place France "at the forefront of the global battle of images".
The European Commission gave the green light to the French channel in June, but media commentators have highlighted internal problems in the company caused by forcing TF1 and France Televisions -- aggressive competitors in the national market -- to work together.
The head of France Televisions, Patrick de Carolis, had unsuccessfully lobbied to have TF1 jettisoned from the project, and relations between the two remain frosty.