I did my best to sit through the first hour of France 24 – and yes, that is pronounced Fronce van cat’ – on Sky Digital (channel 515)… but I just couldn’t do it. Ten minutes of news bulletin, followed by 20 minutes of filler. And in the first hour, ‘filler’ included two runs of the same mini-documentary, two runs of a pointless global weather forecast (Africa hot, Scandinavia cold), and two (consecutive!) runs of a France 24 promo. Oh yes, and a blank screen at one point. And the Washington correspondent saying ‘pissed off’ in a live two-way. And some spelling mistakes in the on-screen graphics. You could blame it on opening night nerves… except it actually started online last night. Ooh la la.
The most striking part is that it’s principally native French-speakers talking in English, or film overdubbed in English. And whilst the French presenters have (for the most part) exceptionally good levels of English, their accents are invariably American. Ironic when the whole raison d’etre of the channel is to act as a balance to the American view of the world.
Frankly, it looks amateur – rolling news done on the cheap. And when it’s a single press of the remote control away from the uber-slick Al Jazeera English, it looks even worse: the contrast with Doha’s action-packed ‘look how cool we are’ opening hour is stark. Quel dommage, les gars.
Meanwhile online… the new France 24 website is up and running too. And there are some good signs: trilingual presentation, a good number of blogs, a clutch of RSS feeds, comment functions on every story, even a bit of Ajax. But I’m not sure about the innovative (ahem) homepage presentation: clicking on a headline brings its excerpt up in the main homepage panel, rather than taking you to a page on the story itself. And it’s not very smart to go live with a lead sports story that’s 48+ hours out of date.