France 24 extends Arabic programming to 10 hours

The French are intent on presenting their view of world current affairs to the Arab population that is in the grip of the "Anglo-Saxon" media, said officials from France 24 news channel while announcing the expansion of its Arabic-language broadcast from four hours to 10 hours daily.

The Arabic broadcast will run from 2pm until midnight (Paris time). The ultimate goal is to be able to broadcast Arabic news 24 hours a day, which is expected to happen early next year.

This, announced at a press conference yesterday, will enable the public-funded TV station to "provide the French perspective as opposed to the American-British point of view", according to Christine Ockrent, CEO of France 24. "We want to show that Western media does not only mean American or British."

The increase in the news channel's continuous Arabic-language coverage will enable it to reach new Arabic-speaking viewers and internet users in the Near and Middle East, particularly in the Maghreb, but also in Africa, Europe and the United States, stated a press release issued by France 24.

In this regard the news channel increased its Arabic-speaking staff in Paris by one third, although it does not intend to expand its correspondent network in the region.

"We are very intent on conveying in three languages what we in France and in Europe believe are today's priorities and are very intent on transmitting , sharing and offering to share our views on issues of common concern," Ockrent said. Ockrent, who also spoke to Emirates Business, said an Arabic-language French channel would also help explain many issues such as France's tolerance of Islam, "versus the propaganda that some other networks broadcast".

Argued to be a relatively belated step, in view of other well-established TV stations in the region such as Al Jazeera, BBC, Russia Today and others, Ockrent said: "We are fully aware of the power and the financial means of our competitors, but I don't think we are late. Do you think the Louvre or the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi are late? They are not. What is amazing in this part of the world is its capacity to offer to project long-term development and a variety of investments and partnerships."

According to Ockrent, surveys reveal that English-language channels that switch to Arabic versions see their Arab audience rating overtaking that of the English version, which means that adopting an Arabic version is a good strategy. A survey conducted by TNS/Sofres is to be released by the end of May, and is expected to reveal the current positioning of the French channel across the Arab world, in the GCC, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

Ockrent indicated that France 24, yet not rated among the top news channels in the Levant and the GCC, holds the second place ranking in North Africa after Al Jazeera. France 24 has 25 correspondents in the region, of whom some are journalists working with Radio MonteCarlo, sister radio station, and mainly based in Egypt, Lebanon and Dubai.

In January 2008, French President Nicholas Sarkozy had announced that he was in favour of reducing France 24's programming to French only.

 

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