Gallic news net aims for ’04 launch

French gov't approves local answer to CNN

PARIS — Perhaps tired of being bashed by American cable news, France has decided to back an all-news web of its own.

The CFI-24 (Canal France Intl.) partners include pubcasters France Televisions, Radio France Intl., wire service Agence France Presse, web Arte, privately owned station TF1 (through its cable news channel LCI) and paybox Canal Plus via iTele.

The French Senate committee approved the initiative Thursday and backed it with a budget in the $100 million range, 75% of which will be funded by the state; the rest will come by “moderately” raising the audiovisual tax.

The idea for a “CNN a la Francaise” has been batted around since 1989. President Jacque Chirac revived it in February 2002, calling for “a large information channel to rival the BBC and CNN.” The lack of a Gallic news web became increasingly glaring during the war in Iraq, as global round-the-clock nets watched their ratings soar.

The web’s president will be named by watchdog le Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel; net will hit the air by the end of 2004 at the earliest.

The schedule will be built around a half-hour of news alternating with half-hour magazine shows.

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