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Last Updated:  Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
Chirac pushes global French TV
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac has been a key opponent of war
French President Jacques Chirac appears to be intensifying efforts to set up an international French TV channel, which would promote France's "world view" at a time of major international change.

Mr Chirac had made reference to the idea during his campaign for re-election last year, but war in Iraq and the diplomatic crisis that preceded it appear to have given fresh impetus to the plans.

Media groups have been asked to put forward their proposals for a new channel by 22 April.

According to reports, the hope is that the station - which would rival the Anglophone coverage provided by the BBC and the US network CNN - could be up and running by next year.

Another voice

The French leader has vociferously opposed military intervention in Iraq, and placed himself at the head of international efforts to avert a war.

Mr Chirac, analysts say, is keen to posit France and the European Union as a counterweight to America's international might.

We must be serious and give ourselves the resources so that the channel can really exists
Francois Rochebloine
Parliamentary committee
While it is assumed that the new station would not be a mouthpiece for the French government, French media chiefs say it would offer a different perspective on world events than that offered by CNN or the BBC, or the increasingly popular Arabic satellite channel al-Jazeera.

All three reach millions of people worldwide via television and internet.

"It seems necessary, given the long international crisis that is beginning," said Dominique Baudis, head of the state broadcasting supervisory body, the Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel.

The French daily Le Monde, citing plans contained in an official government circular on the issue, says the aim is to initially target Arab, African and European countries.

Some observers believe that while the channel may start in French, in the longer term it would have to branch out into English and Arabic if it were to be able to compete with other international players.

The French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP), has had to extensively develop its English language coverage over the past few years in order to keep up with its two main competitors, the American Associated Press and the British Reuters.

Influence costs

It is thought the endeavour will prove costly for a country whose budget has already hit the maximum rate it is allowed under European Union rules.

Le Monde reports that current estimates put the cost of the project at between 25 and 30 million euros.

Francois Rochebloine, chair of the parliamentary committee on information, said: "We must be serious and give ourselves the resources so that the channel can really exists."

"The channel will not be able to come into existence for less than 100 million euros."

The BBC's David Grossman reports from Paris
"President's Chirac stance against war in Iraq... is enormously popular"

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