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France24 News Channel to Give French Spin on World Affairs


France is launching Wednesday a 24-hour, all-news channel aimed to offer a French spin on world affairs. But from Paris, Lisa Bryant reports the channel already faces one stumbling block: a budget tha'ts a fraction of rivals like CNN, BBC or Al Jazeera.

Move over CNN. As of Thursday morning, TV viewers across the world can tune into news with a French touch. The CNN-a-la-Francaise is actually called France 24, a round-the-clock channel that initially will be broadcast in both French and English. There's also a trilingual Web site, in English, French and Arabic, launched Wednesday at an inauguration gala in Paris that will be attended by French President Jacques Chirac.

The channel has been in the works for years. Mr. Chirac announced the plan in 2003, when French-U.S. relations were rocky over the Iraq war. But Jean Lesieur, executive producer for magazines and talk shows at France 24 says the state-funded TV will not be the voice of official France. Rather, Lesieur says, it is a reflection on how French society looks at the world.

"One, we will look differently at some parts of the world that others are looking at," Lesieur says. "For example, the way France looks at Lebanon is not the same as the way CNN or BBC or obviously Al Jazeera will look at Lebanon. Rightly or wrongly, France has a longer tradition of looking a the world with wider open eyes."

France 24 will transmit to Europe, the Middle East and Africa through satellite. At the beginning, it plans to reach roughly 75 million households in over 90 countries. The programs include regular news bulletins, talk shows and news magazines, among other reports.

But while France 24 has lofty ambitions, Lesieur acknowledges its budget is far smaller than that of rivals like CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera.

"Well just have to be smarter and work harder," Lesieur says. "We'll try. Obviously there's a difference between our budgets. At the same time, our budget is not insignificant, its a sizable budget with which we can do enough."

Lesieur also says France 24 plans on covering regions, including parts of Africa, that are often neglected by other international channels.