You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
FRANCE 24, a leading 24/7 international news channel is here in India. To give Indian viewers news with a French touch, they have signed a three years deal for around Rs.1.50 Crore with Prashar Bharati. Marc Saikali, director of FRANCE 24 shares his thoughts and plans for India.
Q: Tell us about your news channel, FRANCE 24?
A: In fact, France 24 is not one channel but three, broadcasting in English, French, and Arabic. Each channel has its own program schedule and news bulletins that are crafted to suit their different audiences and public. However, these three channels share the same editorial line and guiding principles: liberty, fraternity, independence, honesty, rigor, and secularity.
Q: How is it different from other news channel?
A: We offer a French perspective on world events. FRANCE 24 offers a more nuanced take on international news and that is how it’s different from other news channels.
Q: While bringing out news how do you differentiate an opinion and a fact?
A: A fact is something that we are certain of; its existence is validated, sourced and non debatable. On the other side, an opinion is an understanding of a fact or event that can differ from one person to another, from one country to another, from one culture to another. We must broadcast diverse and varied opinions and never adhere to a single view.
Q: How do you cover the locations where it not accessible to a journalist and keep check on the facts?
A: We have an extensive network of correspondents, with 100 offices covering the vast majority of the world. In the places where we are not present at a given time, we can also rely on a network of some 6,000 The Observers. A collaborative site and TV program that covers international current affairs by using eyewitness accounts who alert us to events, who keep us informed and who send us images. All of this information is then checked and validated by a dedicated team of journalists in Paris.
Q: What is the best and worst thing about being a news journalist?
A: The best thing is that the journalist is a witness to every kind of event. In the morning, he or she can spend the morning with a homeless person and tell their story, and then meet a head of state in the afternoon. It is the only profession that allows for so many interactions and different encounters.
The worst thing is that nowadays, the on-the-ground journalist can be considered as troublesome and thus becomes a target. Two reporters from RFI, our sister radio station which is also part of the France Médias Monde group, were brutally assassinated in the north of Mali on 2nd November 2013.
Q: According to you which is the biggest news in the history of mankind and why?
A: The first steps of man on the moon because it was the beginning of an adventure that brought together all of mankind. Because if the Earth is the cradle of humanity, and if one day we grow up and leave the cradle, mankind will have to overcome its differences and go explore and live elsewhere.
Q: Who is the most influential or news maker in this era?
A: According to me President Barak Obama because right now he is the most powerful man on Earth. When America catches a cold, the whole world sneezes!!! In a few years, India will play this role as it is going to be one of the superpower nations.
Q: How are you going to position your channel in India as there are already international news channels like BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera?
A: Our culture is different from the Anglo-Saxon culture. We are not necessarily looking for neutrality but for honesty. We offer Indian viewers the opportunity to discover places and stories that the other channels don’t feature in their editorial line-up. Moreover, we have no links to any Arab state or government. We open our airwaves to all tendencies with only one red line never to be crossed: the discourse of extremists and incitement to hatred, which we will never convey.
Q: What are your plans for India?
A: For the moment, it is not a business issue for us. We want the Indian viewers to know about us and watch us; making money is not the purpose or the goal for us. We just want to strengthen our ties with the Indian public television service through co-productions and content exchange. Right now we are available on DD Direct + and Dish TV, let us see the response and accordingly we will take our future steps.
Q: How do you see India as a country, share one best and worst thing about India?
A: India isn’t simply a country, it’s a whole world. It is a civilization that goes way back in the history and which has brought untold wisdom to the world. It’s a major economic, cultural, political, and technological power. In 30 years time, we believe, it will be the leading world power. Actually, I can’t give my perspective on India by just visiting Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. I think India is much more than that. You have to ask me this question after when I stayed here for at least five-six months.
Q: Tell us about yourself?
A: I’m 48 years old married man and I have three children. I was born in Lebanon and have always lived between two different cultures: an Eastern, Mediterranean culture and a Western, French culture. Cultures that are both rich and ancient. I like the sea and I play the guitar and sing. Looking for occasion for a little concert in India perhaps!
(Published in Mandate June ’14, Page No. )