France’s government gave the green light on Wednesday for an international TV news channel to start broadcasting in French by the end of next year, with the aim of spreading the country’s vision to the world. The brainchild of President Jacques Chirac, the 24-hour news channel is expected to beam into homes, hotels and newsrooms in much the same way as US-owned CNN, Britain’s BBC World and more recently Qatar’s Arabic-language al-Jazeera.
“France must … be on the front line in the global battle of TV pictures,” a spokesman quoted Chirac as telling the cabinet, which approved the establishment of a company to run the French International News Channel (CFII). “The aim is to bring France’s values and its vision of the world to everywhere in the world,” he said.
The state has committed itself to funding the channel under an agreement lasting until 2010. Thirty million euros ($35.30 million) in credits have been set aside in the 2005 budget and 65 million euros in the 2006 budget. Government officials say the projected high cost of the venture would be offset by a gain in world influence. The channel would promote a vision of a “multipolar” world that is not dominated by one superpower, such as the United States.
State-owned broadcaster France Televisions and commercial television company TF1 have equal stakes in the company, which Chirac promised would benefit from “public financial means to match its ambition”. Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres referred to the channel as “CNN the French way … before the end of 2006.”
The project has taken longer than expected to get off the ground, partly because of the difficulty of working out how private and public television companies could work together. The channel, which has already been approved by the European Commission, is intended to broadcast initially to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and aims to expand later to Asia, the United States and South America.