France 24 owes its origins in part to U.S. coverage of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, which was covered extensively by CNN. President Jacques Chirac saw the need for a French equivalent.
The network of news sources came about when President Chirac expressed the view in 1987 that France should have a French perspective on the news, which had been dominated by English-language reporting and broadcasting. President Francois Mitterand and Michel Rocard were responsible for the introduction of Canal France International to create programming in French for international audiences, especially in Africa; the television station was created to fill this need. An around-the-clock news service that was more streamlined in how it related news to the French audience was developed.
President Chirac re-launched France 24 to create a fully French news channel similar in broadcasting power to BBC and CNN for an audience of French expatriates. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan confirmed the view that France should be independent in global news coverage. The National Assembly voted to consolidate all public broadcasters into a public-owned channel. Plans for a 2004 launch were delayed due to disputes among the French parliament and unionized journalists. A 2005 dated was agreed upon. Other news sources expressed dissatisfaction with the plan, but eventually agreed to it. The news organization was named the International French News Channel (CFII). A new and simpler name – France 24 – was later adopted.
France 24 was initially distributed online and as a streaming web service, whose coverage reached not only France but the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the United States. This television station and print news source is available in French, English, Spanish, and in 2007 France 24 began broadcasting in Arabic. Shortly after launch, disagreements arose about the name of the outlet, some seeing it as useful and essential but the France 24 name struck French citizens as too French-centric.
In January 2008 President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that the channel should broadcast in French only. In 2012 France 24 merged with Radio France Internationale. The goal is to become competitive with CNN and BBC and other international news sources. By 2008 the French Government bought control of France 24. It has two sources of funding: an audiovisual license fee for each household with a television and the state subsidy. France 24 re-launched its website to include a video archive and on-demand video. Criticism has come in 2023 from some Arabic-speaking nations for its allegedly limited coverage of news in the Arab nations. More than 260 journalists cover news, sports, and special events.
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