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French-German Television Reaches West Africa


The Franco-German cultural television channel Arte is expanding its coverage outside West Africa for the first time, in a larger trend by international media to have a presence on the African continent.

Arte's programs are now available via satellite broadcast in four new African countries: Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Arte is already broadcasting in parts of francophone West Africa, where it has around 150,000 paid subscribers -- mostly middle and upper-class Africans.

Francois Pellier, head of international development at Arte, is confident viewers elsewhere in Africa will be interested in the channel, which offers music, ballet and other cultural programs. And there's another interest behind Arte's expansion.

"There is very strong competition, so that's a motivation for us to be there of course. Not only because of competition, but also to be present in these countries," Pellier said.

Arte is among several French media broadcasting in Africa, including Radio France International and France Television. A new French 24-hour news channel, expected to debut next month, will also broadcast in Africa. Internationally, a number of other media air in Africa, including BBC, VOA and CNN. And Africa is one of the main targets of Al Jazeera's new English broadcasting service. Meanwhile, a pan-African news channel is slated to be up and running by the end of next year.

Jean-Marie Charon is a media expert at France's National Center for Scientific Research, in Paris.

Charon says many of these foreign channels are expanding to Africa for strategic reasons -- as a way for France and other countries to increase their influence on the continent. But he says Arte is different -- it's targeting cultural issues, and its programs may also feature African artists in the future.

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