France 24 attacks Sarkozy's 'senseless' French-only plan

France 24 has attacked French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ‘senseless’plan to close down the station’s English and Arabic channels.

Last Tuesday, Sarkozy said he wanted to close the 24-hour news channel in its current multilingual form and create a new service, France Monde, which will be French-speaking only and share resources from a number of existing networks.

In a statement attacking the plan the channel said: ‘We are not opposed to a consolidation with other French international services such as Radio France Internationale and TV5. We are fully aware of the need for a rationalisation of the three channels, economically and journalistically. What we do oppose is the forsaking of the whole project as it was originally intended, and the senselessness of this change.”

Sarkozy had told a news conference on Tuesday: ‘With taxpayers’ money, I am not prepared to broadcast a channel that does not speak French.’France 24 is a joint venture between the state-owned France Télévisions and commercial broadcaster TF1, receiving €86m (£60m) in government funding.

The plan for France Monde would bring in resources from the existing Radio France Internationale, TV5 television, and France 24 networks.

France 24 argued that companies like Agence France Presse (AFP) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) continue to be funded by the French taxpayers. The statement continued: ‘Unless one considers a multilingual television channel and website (as is the case with France 24) as inferior media models, we don’t see why our company should suffer from this contradictory message, which seems in clear opposition to the modern approach advocated by the French government and the President himself.”

France 24’s stated aim when it launched in December 2006 was to cover international news from a French perspective and convey the nation’s values throughout the world. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jaques Chirac, introduced France 24 as a counterbalance the “Anglo-Saxon” world view in rolling TV news provided by UK and US services.

The channel argued that if France wanted to make an impact with its own news channel globally, it must broadcast in languages other than its own and eradicate what it called ‘old stereotypes’of ‘French arrogance”.

Sarkozy has expressed a desire to reshape French public broadcasting in the mould of the BBC and proposed banning advertising on France’s public TV stations. He proposed financing them through a levy on ad revenues from private stations and a tax on internet and mobile phone operators.

Analysts said the plan was the first move in a broad liberalistion of French broadcasting which may include changes to ownership rules and advertising restrictions.

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