France 24 joins global competition for 24/7 news

France 24 has joined the global news competition against the likes of CNN and the BCC as it vies for international viewers in a highly competitive market.

Last week, France launched its first round-the-clock international news channel. The service is now available via satellite in nearly 75 million households across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The French government said the new publicly funded network would help the country compete in the “global battle of images” long dominated by the BBC and CNN, and more recently, the Arab world’s Al Jazeera. Initially, programming will be broadcast in French and English. Arabic language broadcasts will follow next year.

Reports said the French news organization was born out of the Iraq war when many in France felt the country’s diplomatic voice was marginalized because France lacked its own global media presence. President Jacques Chirac and former Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (now prime minister) supported creation of a French news service.

The new service started with a modest annual budget of $114 (compared with CNN’s $856 million) and 180 journalists in charge of producing two 24-hour channels, Businessweek reported.

France 24 faces formidable competition. CNN International, BBC World and Al Jazeera currently reach more than a half-billion viewers worldwide.