France Launches 24-Hour News Channel

Nonstop news ... with a French touch.

All-news channel France 24, a pet project of President Jacques Chirac that aims to broadcast France's vision and values across the globe 24 hours a day, was launching late Wednesday, via a trilingual Web site offering video on demand and content in French, English and Arabic.

Televised broadcasts on two channels, one in French and the other mostly in English, are to follow on Thursday. Chirac planned to visit to France 24's headquarters in the Paris outskirts on Wednesday afternoon ahead of a launch party in the evening.

The state-funded channel enters a crowded market that includes CNN, BBC World and Al-Jazeera, which made its English-language debut last month.

"Our mission is to cover worldwide news with French eyes," said CEO Alain de Pouzilhac.

It will transmit to Europe, the Middle East and Africa via satellite, initially reaching an estimated 75 million households in more than 90 countries.

France 24 expects to expand coverage in North America and Asia, and add Arabic- and Spanish-language broadcasts, in coming years.

Programming on the French and English channels will be virtually identical, with 10-minute news bulletins every half hour, and a selection of reports, talk shows and news magazines.

The idea for the channel, discussed for more than a decade, gained resonance during the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, when Chirac tried to slow the U.S. drive to war and some media in the United States and Britain mocked his efforts.