France to take on 'le rosbif' TV

News channel to challenge BBC by bringing 'French values' to the world - in English
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The Independent Online

To beat les Anglo-Saxons, you have to join them, even if that means broadcasting "French values" to the world in English.

France will enter the "information arms race" this week, launching its own state-funded, international 24-hour television news station. The declared mission of France 24, which takes to the air on Wednesday, is to present the world "through French eyes" and through the prism of "French values". It will, however, broadcast identical news bulletins simultaneously on separate channels in French and English.

"Yes, this may seem a paradox," said Alain de Pouzilhac, the president of France 24. "Most of our target audience around the world speaks English. If we wish to offer an alternative view of the world through French eyes, we have to do so partly in English."

The English- and French-language news teams will work together to produce identical bulletins which will be read by two presenters standing at opposite ends of the newsroom. But while the French channel will broadcast round the clock, the English channel will switch over to French for six hours a day at first and eventually to Arabic.

France 24 was created by the French government to counter what it sees as "Anglo-Saxon" cultural imperialism. Mr de Pouzilhac insisted that France 24 must be seen to be independent. "This is the television that President [Jacques] Chirac wanted, but it is not Chirac TV," he said. Some, however, might interpret France 24's charter as an avowal of bias. The station insists that all its staff sign a declaration that "our mission is to cover international news from a French perspective". But, Mr de Pouzilhac said, cultural bias exists in all journalism. "BBC World and CNN are marvellously professional, but they inevitably convey a British or an American view," he said.

The three principal "French values" that will be expressed by France 24 are an insistence that the world is culturally "diverse"; a love of argument and debate; and programmes reflecting the French art de vivre.

Additional reporting by Jen Wainwright

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