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France 24

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OverviewEdit

France 24 is a 24-hour multilingual international news network launched in December 2006. The Iraq War provided a major motivating factor for the creation of the channel. During the lead up to the War in Fall of 2002, members of the government were concerned that the French position against the war was not clearly articulated on existing French Networks. France 24 was conceived of as an alternative French voice to BBC and CNN. France 24 is available in French, English, and now in Arabic. Its annual budget for 2007 is $115 million.

HistoryEdit

Jacques Chirac made the first calls for an international news channel when he was French Prime Minister in 1987. While no action was taken, there were some proposals to unite several smaller broadcasting efforts into a larger umbrella body. In 1997, Jean Paul Cluzel, head of Radio France International advocated the creation of Téléfi, a super-network that would have fused all French international broadcastings into one body. However, it was not until 2002, when Chirac was strongly at odds with the United States and Great Britain about the war in Iraq, that serious moves were made. In a speech in February 2002, President Chirac expressed his concerns:

"Is it understandable that year after year, we keep deploring the persisting lack of French-speaking information and television programs on the world stage? (…) Everyone notices that we are still far from having a large international news network in French, able to compete with the BBC and CNN. Recent crises have shown how crippled a country and a cultural area are when they do not have a sufficient weight on the battle of images and waves."[1]

Responding to Chirac's requests, Parliament made several inquiries into the new station and released several reports (see useful links for the reports); but the final launch was delayed over negotiations about the network structure. The European Union gave the green light for the creation of the network in June 2005. The original name was “CFII,” but was changed to “France 24” in June 2006 because it was considered much easier to pronounce by foreign audiences.

StructureEdit

France 24 employs 170 journalists representing 28 nationalities. Every journalist must be bilingual in French and a second language. They are also required to sign "a code of ethics" in which they pledge to promote: a "diversity of opinions and points of view," "a sense of debate, confrontation, and contradiction,” and "the culture and the art of living a la Francaise."[2]

The network is co-owned by commercial national network TF1 and state-owned France Télévisions. The station broadcasts across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Washington; with plans to expand throughout America and Asia within two years. Its main headquarters are in New York.

The contents of F24's French and English programs are similar. France 24 launched an Arabic version on April 2, 2007. For now, Arabic transmissions are limited to four hours a day from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. However, the station promises to extend its Arabic programing to twelve hours daily by the beginning of 2008. France 24 is available in French, English, and now in Arabic; and has plans to launch a Spanish version in 2008.

GoalsEdit

France 24 launched its English language service amidst a crowded playing field of existing international news networks, including Al Jazeera English, Press TV and CITVC. France 24's President, Alain de Pouzilhac, who is a former advertisement company CEO, is however "confident about France 24’s singularity" [3]: “We will be different,because the values that we defend contrast with those of the Anglo-Saxons.” He also spoke about presenting the news “with a French perspective” without clarifying what that means. It still remains uncertain what distinguishes France 24, but he clearly positions France 24 as an alternative to CNN.” “CNN is a unified perspective of the world from Washington,” he argues, “whereas France 24 tries to have a diversified perspective that is to say to recognize diversity of cultures and religions: that’s the French eye.”[4]

Marc Owen, a British anchor for France 24 offers a similar input, explaining that the goal of the network is not to broadcast slanted news, but to be "alive to the influence France has in the world and illuminate stories by weaving some of that in to our coverage."[5]

The network holds the same position in regards to Al Jazeera, pointing out the positive aspect France 24 can have on Arab-speaking viewers:

"Al-Jazeera has done a great job, but essentially it’s offering the Arabic perspective. We need something more. The role of France could be a special one thanks to its strong relationship with the Arab world in the last few decades, and because we weren’t involved in the Iraq war."[6]

French scholar Bernard Cabedoche offered a thoughtful reflection on the positioning of France 24:

"France prefers the Kantian idea of perpetual peace organized by the discussion and the bylaw between international actors. The country rejects the promotion of one actor, auto-proclaimed the gendarme of the humanity to prevent the anarchy of the world described by Hobbes. However, the use of civilization remains pregnant in its public discourse, with all its most normative aspects: conquering (civilization and progress are intertwined); embodied (the West is The Civilization); proselyte (a duty of civilization falls upon it.)"[7]

According to Lawrence Pintak, director of the Adham Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo, it is a question of influence. "Media is about power and influence," he says, "and if you’re going to be a player in the world today, you have to have a television channel. "[8]

Alain de Pouzilhac, in an interview given a few months prior to the launching, explains the channel's political goals:

"France 24 targets opinion makers all around the world, whether they are women and men working in politics, in media, in economics, in international organizations or in universities."[9]

According to Pouzilhac, the Channel "also targets those I call ‘the new opinion makers.’ They represent 25 to 30 percent of the world population. They are fond of international news and use the new technologies to spread their opinions to one community.”[10]

France 24 has also been eager to appeal to Internet-users and bloggers. During the French presidential election it created a website called The Observer [11] so that selected Internet-users from all over the world could give their opinion on the election and interact with one another. The enterprise seemed to have been successful, as France 24 has plans to replicate the initiative for important subsequent events.

ReceptionEdit

France 24 is available by satellite, cable, and high-speed Internet connection. To avoid competition with TV5 Monde, another public French-language international network, France 24's status is prohibited by law to take any action that could destabilize TV5's in areas where that network is available.

ImpactEdit

No data is yet available on global viewing rates, but a study released data about France 24’s website reports that the 1.2 million visitors visited the website during the first month of operation [12]. And a TNS/Sofres poll conducted during the network's first month found that between 20-40% of opinion makers in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Senegal, and Algeria had watched France 24 at least once [13].

TNS/Sofres conducted a poll in Algeria[14] that found that in the three weeks following the France 24 Arabic's launch, 51 percent of Algerian opinion makers had watched France 24 at least once— it amounted to 34 percent in the previous survey, but at that time, it was only available in French.

ReformEdit

France 24 is at the core of a political debate regarding reform of French international broadcasting system. "A parliamentary report"[15] released in October 2006 stressed the necessity of reorganizing French international broadcasting. In late April, in a joint op-ed to the daily Le Figaro, a few right-wing representatives urged changes, claiming that "the international broadcasting evidently suffers from a lack of political and administration management,"[16] they wrote. They also advocated the creation of a Public Interest Group (Groupement d’Interet Public) that would act similarly to the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

In January 2007, "a new parliamentary report"[17] advocated the fusion of France 24 with Radio France Internationale (RFI) to create a new powerful international broadcasting medium. Alain de Pouzilhac remains opposed to the idea. He considers an increased integration of TV and the Internet as the new model. He characterizes the radio/TV paradigm as "an outdated fifty-year old model." [18]

However, Antoine Schwarz, the head of RFI supports the idea: "Alain de Pouzilhac considers the interaction between the Internet and the old media to be essential. He is right. But this new medium, we can develop it together. There is no good reason to have competing websites."[19]

Further ReadingsEdit

Useful LinksEdit

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