France 24 is an international news and current affairs television channel based in Paris. The channel is owned by the French Government and was launched in 2006. This channel is aiming for an English speaking audience.In 1987, then French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac expressed his desire for an international television news channel in French and had requested a report into the activities of current international broadcasts from France (Radio France Internationale, TV5, and to a certain extent Réseau France Outre-Mer) and noted the collective offering was “fragmented, disorganised and ineffective.”
With the arrival of François Mitterrand as President in 1981 and the naming of Michel Rocard as Prime Minister in 1988, the government launched a new project, Canal France International (CFI), a package of programmes aimed at making programmes in French for foreign audiences, particularly in Africa, to be developed in parallel as a television channel.
The First Gulf War of 1990, relayed across the world by CNN International in particular, revealed the power of international news channels and their role in the formation of opinion. A parliamentary minister, Philippe Séguin, wished to create a French-language equivalent.
In 1996, after nineteen governmental reports in ten years, Prime Minister Alain Juppé asked Radio France Internationale president Jean-Paul Cluzel (who was also General Inspector of Finances) to create a French international news channel. Cluzel proposed in 1997 to group TV5, RFI, and CFI within a corporation entitled Téléfi. The UMP-led government decided to follow that recommendation but, with the return of the Socialist Party to government and the nomination of Hubert Védrine, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, favoured the augmentation of existing outlets such as TV5, which started to produce its own programming, notably its news bulletins, which in turn created its own news team.
Additionally with the creation of EuroNews in 1993 (with French-language commentary), the media presence of France overseas became more complex, more fragmented, and costlier, without being able to rely on a true round-the-clock international news channel.
In 2002, President Jacques Chirac relaunched the project to create a French international news channel; after a speech given at a reception in honour of the High Council of the Francophonie at the ‘Élysée on 12 February 2002, he stated:
“Is it understandable that year after year we are still lamenting our persistent failure with news and the French-language media on the international scene? Admittedly, we have with Agence France-Presse a remarkable information tool that we must continue to reinforce, notably in its international mission. Indeed, everyone here recognises the recent progress made by RFI, by TV5, by CFI, thanks to the efforts of their teams and to the determination of the public bodies. But everybody notices that we are still far from having a large international news channel in French, capable of competing with the BBC or CNN.”
The recent crises have shown the handicap that a country suffers, a cultural area, which doesn’t possess a sufficient weight in the battle of the images and the airwaves. Let us question, in the time of terrestrial television networks, of satellite, of the internet, on our organisation in this domain, and notably in the dissipation of public funds which are reserved to them.”
The launch of the channel was made official after a statement to the cabinet of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, headed by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres on 30 November 2005. ” The project of the International French News Channel (abbreviated in French to CFII)[…] will allow us to propose our own country’s vision of world events and to reinforce its presence in the world.”
Alain de Pouzilhac, former CEO of Havas, was named President, along with two deputies, one each from group partners TF1 and France Télévisions.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin declared that CFII, against the wishes of TF1, would be broadcast within mainland France. However, TF1 wished to launch its news channel LCI onto the digital terrestrial platform. In order to placate TF1, CFII was due to be broadcast via satellite and cable.
On 22 April 2006, Le Monde announced that the managers of the forthcoming channel found its initial name difficult to pronounce (CFII, in French pronounced as C-F-I-I or C-F-2-I). A new name was announced on 30 June 2006; France 24 (pronounced France vingt-quatre). This decision was taken by the Supervisory Board, chaired by France Télévision president Patrick de Carolis, who made the choice from a list of five potential names.
France 24 launched on 6 December 2006, initially available online as a web stream, followed by satellite distribution a day later, covering France and the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the United States (specifically airing in New York State and the District of Columbia using two channels: one in English and the other in French. Since April 2007 the channel increased its reach, airing programmes in Arabic for viewers in the Maghreb, North Africa and the Middle East.
Two months after launch, a survey conducted by TNS Sofres indicated that 75% of respondents in France questioned thought France 24 was “useful and essential”, but questions have arisen concerning the France 24 name being too Franco-centric for an international news channel.