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Galled by language

French news net will speak in English

Trouble is again brewing over Gaul’s much-delayed plans for an international news network to rival the BBC and CNN, with the spat this time centering on which language to use.

Channel, a pet project of French President Jacques Chirac, will snub French for the more universal English.

Culture czar Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said Sunday that CFII, a government-backed co-venture between commercial broadcaster TF1 and pubcaster France Televisions, would air in French for just four hours a day. He added that the goal of the network when it bows in December is not to promote the French language but to give a French vision of the news.

The news has outraged protectionists of the local language and again raised the specter of the troubled relationship between TF1 and France Televisions.

The call to limit French on CFII reportedly originates from TF1, which fears competition for its inhouse news network, LCI. France Televisions is said to be in favor of French as the primary language.

Jean-Pierre Paoli, one of CFII’s two managing directors and a transplant from TF1, defended the decision. “We’re hardly committing an act of high treason,” Paoli told satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine.

However, Marc Favre d’Echallens, of the Assn. for the Defense of the French Language, called CFII topper Alain de Pouzilhac “a traitor to his language.”

“It’s logical that, after celebrating Trafalgar with the English … our leaders should finance a public international channel that transmits principally in English,” d’Echallens wrote on the anti-English language Web site the Assn. for the Future of Francophonie.