JERUSALEM (AFP) – The launch of an Israel-based 24-hour TV news channel in English, French and Arabic is aimed at giving a "different view" of the Jewish state, its director said Thursday.
i24news, which also operates a website, came on air on Wednesday evening, at least two weeks after its announced launch by CEO Franck Melloul.
"This channel's job is to bring a different view of Israel that is lacking on international television channels," Melloul told AFP.
The channel employs 150 journalists locally and 20 foreign correspondents.
Broadcasting from the port of Jaffa near Tel Aviv, it is financed mainly by Franco-Israeli businessman and telecoms tycoon Patrick Drahi.
Drahi also heads Israeli conglomerate Hot, a network of TV channels and mobile telephone service providers.
"We want to end prejudice against Israel," said Melloul, who insisted that none of i24news's funding came from the government.
Its first broadcast included a news piece on new EU guidelines that will forbid the 28 member states from dealing with or funding Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories -- a move that has angered rightwing Israeli politicians but which the Palestinians have praised.
The channel also aired early feature reports on Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, unequivocally referring to it as a "terrorist" organisation.
Israel has called on the EU to blacklist Hezbollah as a "terrorist" organisation, to which several member states have objected.
They cited questionable evidence over an attack in Bulgaria last year that the group blamed on the group and which formed the basis of possible moves to blacklist it.
Israel's former ambassador to France Danny Shek said i24news was "the most ambitious media project launched in Israel, and we can only hope it succeeds in its goal of changing Israel's image in the world".
Israel's government press office head Nitzan Hen praised the launch of i24news as "excellent news", but stressed it was in no way linked to the government itself.
"i24news will give a different side of Israel a voice and will definitely be more objective that other international news channels as it will live at the rhythm of daily Israeli life," the former journalist said.
"Just the fact that a private news channel is broadcasting from Tel Aviv with Jews and Arabs working together is something I salute," Hen added.
Two of the three news anchors are Arab -- Lucy Aharish, who has previously worked for the main Israeli channels, presents the English-language bulletins.
And Nadine Hamed, also a former Israeli TV journalist, presents in Arabic.
Melloul said that "we have Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze journalists.
"Can you imagine Al Jazeera giving an anchor spot to a Jewish journalist?" he asked of the mammoth pan-Arab Qatar-based satellite broadcaster.
"It's about time we heard a voice other than that of Al Jazeera," he said.
i24news says it can be seen by some 300 million households in Europe, Africa and Asia.