‘Yankee and Rostbif News Channels, En Garde,’ Warns Chirac

16 May 2003

President Jaques Chirac of France, irked by the dominance of world 24-hour rolling news bulletins by America’s CNN and the UK’s BBC, plans to introduce a third force peddling the French viewpoint to the planet.

A forty-page plan for a state-funded global news channel was unanimously approved Wednesday by a cross-party commission of Le Sénat, the French parliament.

As yet unnamed, but dubbed by the report CNN à la française, the channel will compete directly with CNN à l’americaine and rostbif du BBC, both of which are seen as reflecting their national perspectives – although in the case of the latter, its news reporting from Iraq recently caused no small discomfort to the Blair administration, leading to accusations of anti-war bias.

The concept is not new, its genesis being at least a decade distant. But the plan has been gathering dust in a forgotten corner of the Quai d’Orsay, the French foreign ministry, where it would have continued to moulder but for the diplomatic contretemps over the US-British attack on Iraq.

‘Chirac’s News Network’ will speak with a pronounced French accent, broadcasting twenty-four hours a day in Arabic, English and French across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

With an annual budget of up to €80 million ($91.78m; £56.65m), the channel plans to employ around 200 journalists, charged with countering Anglo-American “cultural imperialism” which currently rampages unchecked by a Gallic third voice, says the report. President Chirac regards such a check as a “burning necessity”.

The plan’s concession to English language broadcasts may displease some purists but the report brooks no argument. “This … may seen harsh for defenders of the French language, but that’s the reality. Who [elsewhere in the world] speaks French today? How many speak it well enough to follow the news and prefer hearing it in French rather than their mother tongue?”

The channel will draw primarily on the extant resources of state-owned Radio France International and France Television. The report recommends an independent editorial stance, although there will be a degree of regulation to ensure the channel is not at odds with official French foreign policy.

Its stated objective is to “guarantee France greater visibility in the global media battle and permanently increase the country's influence”.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff