The brand new studios housing Israel’s only 24-hour news channel have an amazing view of the Jaffa port, but the channel owner’s decision to broadcast from a city shared by Jews and Arabs is about symbolism, not scenery.
The founders of i24 News, which launched in late July, say they mean to provide a broad and diverse Israeli perspective on regional and international news that will represent more than just the Jewish majority to an international audience. This is why i24News airs simultaneously in English, French and Arabic — no Hebrew. Its target audience is not Israeli.
The channel is the brainchild of former French diplomat Frank Melloul, who, as media advisor to former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, served as head of France 24, the country’s international news channel — a similar project to the one he has recently launched. Like France 24, i24news’ target audience is international, not local, with roughly 70% percent of coverage dedicated to international news and 30% to Middle East coverage.
“When you are watching France 24, you get the French point of view; when you are watching CNN, you get the American point of view,” Melloul said in a phone interview from Israel. “One was missing: the Israeli point of view, with all its components.”
He added: “I’m sharing this channel [as] diplomacy. I want to target people who hate Israel because they don’t know anything about [the country].”
To do so, Melloul has hired over 150 journalists — mostly bilingual and hailing from all over the world — including at least eight who made the jump from the United States, and 25 correspondents stationed globally. Adar Primor, now editor-in-chief of i24News Internet and multimedia, left a long career as a print journalist for Haaretz to join Melloul’s team.
For Primor, i24News is filling a gap in coverage often ignored by other media outlets covering the Middle East. “Israel is not only war, not only disputed territory,” he said. “The idea was to show a different Israel, the complexity of Israel.”
The network is available by satellite in Europe, Africa and Asia, and via a live stream hosted on its website. Plans are in the works for a U.S. launch sometime in 2014.
The broadcaster’s launch last month was touted throughout the American media as an Israeli response to Al Jazeera — the Qatari state-sponsored broadcaster whose name has become almost synonymous with Middle East coverage — which announced in January that it would expand its operations in the United States with Al Jazeera America.
Melloul, for one, rejects that comparison. “First, because we don’t share the same values,” he said. “I think that it is important to have a different voice in the Middle East, especially from a democracy.”