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Friday, July 19, 2013

Israel's 24-hour news network launches; Arabs notice

Al Arabiya has a story about its newest Middle East news competitor:

Israel’s first global 24-hour broadcaster seeks to challenge established global networks on Middle Eastern news and fight “negative” stereotypes about the Jewish state by airing programs simultaneously in Arabic, French and English.

The channel, which has 250 employees, including 150 journalists drawn mainly from the United States and Europe, is headquartered in Luxembourg with studios in the Israeli port city of Jaffa.

The I24 officially launched last Wednesday and is “the brainchild of former French diplomat Frank Melloul with financing from French-Israeli entrepreneur Patrick Drahi,” according to a report by ANSAmed, which is part of the Italian news agency Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata.

Drahi is a Franco-Israeli businessman and telecommunications mogul.

“We want to add a new regional voice besides Al Jazeera, France24, the BBC and CNN,'” the report quoted Melloul as saying.

It remains unclear whether audiences, particularly in the Arab world, will tune in in large numbers to the Israeli channel.

Magda Abu-Fadil, a Lebanon-based media specialist and commentator, said local cable providers and even regional television satellites, such as Arabsat and Nilesat, are unlikely to carry Israel’s I24.

Abu-Fadil noted how in Lebanon some cable providers do not even carry channels belonging to rival political blocs, let alone carry a station that belongs to Israel.

Most Arab viewers who are interested in watching the channel may opt to watch it online, said Abu-Fadil.

..Israel’s I24 will reportedly receive no funding from the Israeli government and seeks to “debunk anti-Israeli prejudice by offering new perspectives,” according to ANSAmed.

A statement by I24 directors said the channel will not act as a “spokesman” for the Israeli government, according to the report.

The station hired Arab-Israeli reporters Suleiman a-Shafi and Lucy Ahrish who have experience in the Israeli commercial television networks.

ANSAmed quoted Shafi as saying that the station’s ambition “is to broaden the range of opinions and make room for human rights and positions both on the right and the left, as well as liberal ideas.”
I watched i24News for a while today. The production quality so far is about on par with what I would expect from a local news channel in a medium-sized market. There are lots of small mistakes, with the news presenters seeming hesitant, stuttering and a little lost at times. The graphics don't always match the story and I saw a misspelling in a caption.

In general, though, the content isn't bad, with interesting stories in the programs I watched. (There was a show called "Bloggers" scheduled for 5:10 PM Israel time today, but instead a show called "Defense" was shown.)

Unlike Jewish News 1, another 24-hour news channel, i24News is not aimed at Jews or even Zionists. Instead, it is meant to be watched by the world at large. As such it has many general programs on pop culture, high tech and so on.

All together, it is a worthy effort. I have no idea how it could possibly break even, but lets hope it survives.