10 December 2006

France 24 is launched - more than just anti-American

Good job we didn’t have to wait till the French government got its act together for global news channels. CNN International was the first, and entirely the creation of a leftwing entrepreneur, Ted Turner. Its ubiquity was sealed in the Gulf War that repelled Saddam’s Iraq from Kuwait. This was followed by an entirely commercially funded BBC World. NBC established its global business news channel CNBC commercially, and since then Al Jazeera has also entered the global TV news market, again privately funded. The German government has quietly fully funded Deutsche Welle, which broadcasts news and cultural/current affairs programmes in German and English around the clock. I need not also mention Foxnews, Bloomberg business news, MSNBC etc.
However, the French government, ever looking for a way to prove how utterly unresponsive government is to what people actually are willing to pay for, has funded and launched France 24, a global TV news channel in French and English. The concern has been that the other channels reflect an Anglo-Saxon view of the world. Well, had the French government not taxed and regulated its own broadcasters into submission, this could have happened spontaneously, but France and entrepreneurial flair are words that don’t go together often. However, it is clear that France 24 can't be accused of simply being anti-American.
"Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Centre on the United States, said: "It's not an anti-American operation. It's more than that."
Of course another reason for France 24 is basically to assuage French speakers about the fact that French is not the most universal global language. It is undoubtedly more beautiful than English, as I experience daily hearing English butchered by native speakers. However, France 24 is in French and English, as France has clearly figured out that a French only channel is only preaching to the choir so to speak. However, I doubt France 24 will have much influence, except perhaps beyond Francophone African opinion makers. You see even the website doesn't help when you click "how to watch". The incentives around a state run channel! I assume it will be on Sky and cable networks in the UK, but it is not yet distributed via satellite to the South Pacific.

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