France 24 strives to strengthen connection with Arab-speaking audience

Safaa Abdoun
8 Min Read

CAIRO: In a move to expand its reach among Arab viewers, France 24 has now extended its daily broadcasting from four to 10 hours with a new format and programming schedule and announced plans to develop into a 24 hour flow.

“We want to develop the French perspective which recognizes the diversity of opinion, culture, education, religion, said Alain De Pouzilac, chairman of France 24 who came to Cairo to launch the new broadcast hours.

Since 3 pm, April 27, France 24 has been broadcasting 10 hours of Arabic programming. The Arabic channel will adhere to its editorial mix of news, economy, culture, sports and weather. In addition, investigation reports will increase in frequency.

With the new programs, France 24 will maintain its founding principle, which is to cover global news from a French perspective promoting healthy debate and balanced ideas, and striving for an open outlook on international diversity and pressing challenges.

Two sides of a panorama

The decision to expand the programming hours was an essential component of the channel’s development strategy.

“I am the father of the Arabic channel, said Pouzilac, “We had to cut from other areas [of the budget] in order to [make this move] and I will [further] stress on the shareholders more so we can extend it to 24 hours.

“I think to be fair we have to have 24 hours in English, 24 hours in French and 24 hours in Arabic, he added.

Pouzilac also pointed out that their objective is to develop not only on television and radio but also on mobile, internet and new means of technology.

The new development of the channel’s will enable it to reach new Arabic speaking viewers and internet users in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States, who count for over 800 million people.

He explained that it’s important for France “to develop an Arabic channel to make people in the Middle East understand more what is the French vision and the different traditions, religions, education.

On his part, he continued, when he watches Al Jazeera in English he develops a better understanding of this part of the world.

According to a study by the TNS- Sofres Institute in January 2009, 88 percent in Algeria, 80 percent in Morocco and 73 percent in Tunisia say that they watch France 24.

Nahida Nakad, deputy director of Arabic Service France 24, finds that all parties involved would benefit from extending the hours. It’s important to France first, she said, explaining the importance of covering this region and its political, social, historical and cultural significance.

“But it is also important, in my view as an Arab, for the Arab world because France has a lot to show, she explained.

“It wants to show the way French live and the way they think, debate and defend the rights, be it social rights or human rights or child rights, Nakad added.

The channel also aims to engage its audience. With the new expansion, France’s 24 audience participation site, The Observers, will now be available in Arabic following its success in English and French

The Observers was launched in December 2007 to cover international news through the eyes of direct observers, namely people experiencing events on the ground. All content published on the site, whether in the form of videos, text or photos, is provided by amateurs, but selected, checked, translated and explained by staff journalists

France 24 in Arabic’s target audience is everyone who is interested in what the channel has to offer, whether in opinion or programming. In addition, it also targets young people because they are the future.

“We also target the decision makers in a sense that for years and years the leaders in the Arab world have been getting their information from the Anglo-Saxon media. They didn’t have this choice of different visions of the world and different ways of presenting the news and the priorities in the world, said Nakad.

Striving for credibility

Launching the 10-hour programming is nothing short of a miracle, as Nakad was only asked to do this about a month ago.

“These 10 hours are just a start, we are really looking for the 24 hours, we have a lot to give, an increase in programming and in quality, said Nakad who also manages the Arabic department of l’Audioviseul Exterieur de la France, where she will develop the synergies between France 24’s Arabic channel and the radio station Monte Carlo Doualiya, an integration which will enrich the content with a huge network of reporters in every part of the world.

France 24 was launched in December 2006 with a brief to broadcast to provide the French perspective on world events in a global television news market dominated by CNN International and BBC World News.

It was set up jointly by the private operator TF1 and public broadcaster France Televisions, which in January ceded their stakes to a new public-funded holding company, Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France.

Pouzilac pointed out that even though the channel is owned by the French government, they are not its mouthpiece.

He stressed that no one can interfere in the content presented on the channel.

“We have to stay independent, because when people see that you are not independent – even if you speak 10 languages – you won’t have an audience, he said.

Yet, Western news channels usually evoke skepticism about their operators’ agenda and the way they portray news.

However, Nakad asserts, “We will never stop any news from being broadcasted for political reasons . we are free, we have to report what we are watching exactly.

Taoufik Majied, a Tunisian anchor at France 24, concurred. “We speak freely and present all sides on an issue .We don’t have any agenda behind our work.

There are currently 36 journalists working on the channel, representing more than a dozen Arab nationalities. The journalists come from Arab-French backgrounds and are “citizens of the world as Nakad described them.

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