By Peter Feuilherade
France is to launch its long-awaited global French-language satellite TV news channel by the end of next year, the government has announced in Paris.
The French want to challenge the domination of the BBC and CNN
Communication Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said leading private and public TV channels signed a contract on the creation of the new channel.
It will be called French International News Network (CFII), but has already been nicknamed "CNN a la francaise".
A government spokesman said CFII would begin "before the end of 2006".
The new network will be owned by commercial network TF1 and the state-funded company France Televisions.
The government has given initial funding of 30m euros (£23m) for this year, and allocated another 65m euros (£44m) for next year.
The European Commission gave the green light to CFII in June, saying it did not breach EU state aid rules.
Employing around 240 staff, it will produce programmes initially beamed to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
CFII will broadcast news around the clock in French, with a four-hour slot of programmes in English. There are plans to add programmes in Arabic and Spanish in due course.
The French news agency AFP commented that relations between TF1 and France Televisions "are often frosty and very competitive, leaving open the degree of co-operation both will display as they are forced to work together".
President Jacques Chirac floated the idea of a French global TV channel in 2002 to raise the profile of his country's diplomacy, as France led international opposition to US plans to invade Iraq.
Mr Chirac viewed the network as a way of getting France's perspective seen in a global TV news sector dominated by the BBC and the US channel CNN.
The French government's intention has been to use the new broadcaster as a platform to counter the prevailing US view of world affairs, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, where France has mostly good relations.
In the years since then, other countries have also announced plans for 24-hour all-news channels. Al-Jazeera International and Russia Today are among the English-language global news channels also set to launch in 2006.
On Wednesday, Mr Chirac was quoted by AFP news agency as saying that France "must be at the forefront of the global battle of images, that's why I am resolved that our country should have an international news channel".
As to the chances of success for the CFII in a burgeoning global TV news sector, the French culture minister told doubting members of parliament last week: "Let us not abandon hope. We have to enter this game, and fast."