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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 15:26 GMT
French join global TV news battle
By Peter Feuilherade
BBC Monitoring

France 24 presenter
France 24 say it plans to carry French values around the world

France 24, the new international news channel promising "a specifically French outlook", launched on the internet in colourful style ahead of its near-global launch on satellite.

A suitably Parisian flavour was provided by the backdrop - the Champs d'Elysees and Place de la Concorde.

Then the strains of soul singer Barry White's 1970s classic Love Theme and a female announcer welcomed English-stream viewers to "France Vingt-Quatre (24), the new international channel coming to you from France".

The first news bulletin led with the Iraq Study Group's findings that US policy in Iraq was not working.

Reports on anti-government protests in Lebanon and the humanitarian crisis in Chad followed, along with briefer coverage of the poisoning of former Russian secret agent Alexander Litvinenko, the Paris meeting between the Israeli foreign minister and her French counterpart and the swearing-in of Joseph Kabila as DR Congo's president.

Parallel French- and English-language streams were accompanied by a version voiced over in Arabic.

Rapid pace

France 24's English internet stream showed fast-paced news bulletins, with the news headlines at the bottom of the screen changing rapidly.

Another feature that appeared to set France 24 apart from other global news channels was its apparent reliance on interviews with correspondents working for other news organisations.

On launch night, these included the AFP bureau chief in Baghdad, a Global Radio News correspondent in Washington and a France 2 TV correspondent in Jerusalem.

The channel showed several compilations of what appeared to be unattributed agency footage interspersed with France 24's own interviews.

This made for a confusing viewing experience compared with other channels where the viewer is in no doubt as to who has shot the video.

Home front

Meanwhile, viewers of the domestic French channel TF1 had to sit through 10 home news stories before seeing any foreign coverage: Mr Litvinenko's poisoning, Tony Blair on the Iraq war, the Iraq Study Group (ISG) and the Fiji coup.

France 2 TV led with the ISG, followed by Mr Litvinenko and then domestic news.

Both channels briefly reported the France 24 launch, which was also the lead story on the domestic 24-hour news channel La Chaine Info.

France 24 will have to compete in a growing global TV news marketplace where the BBC and CNN - the current market leaders - are taking seriously the arrival only three weeks ago of Al-Jazeera English.

The French channel has a relatively small first annual budget - $110m (56m), which is about one-tenth of what 24-hour TV news pioneer CNN spends every year.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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