Media Minitel?

by on August 17, 2004

An interesting story ran in the Economist a few weeks ago on France’s attempt to create a French 24-news channel (my apologies to you who aren’t weeks behind in reading Economist issues as I am.) Apparently, during the invasion of Iraq last year, Jacques Chirac grew frustrated with what he saw as a pro-US slant on war reporting by CNN and Fox. So he called for creation of a French rival to these networks, calling it “essential” to French global influence. The new venture of course, while partly privately owned, would be almost entirely taxpayer-financed.

The plan ran into problems, not surprisingly. First, it was decided that the new network would not operate in France . After all, French TV doesn’t need more competition, does it? Then, it was decided the initial programming would be only in French. Seems France’s desire to influence public opinion was outweighed by an aversion to using languages that the vast majority of the world actually speaks, such as English. Of course, that left potential audiences in parts of Belgium, Canada and West Africa, but even to the French government it was clear that would hardly create a rival to CNN. Last month the whole project was shelved as a waste of money even by French standards.

Of course, I’m sure some will see this as yet another example of how hard it is to compete against Fox, CNN, and the dozen or so other media “monopolies” that operate today without taxpayer support, French or otherwise.

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