Israel’s first 24-hour TV seeks to repair Jewish state’s global image

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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.

Gaining credibility, however, depends on its reporting across the three language platforms, she added.

She said Hezbollah is likely to closely monitor the Israeli television.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar television previously aired Hebrew programming as part of its media and psychological warfare against Israel.

But aside from Hezbollah, there has been very little interest among Arabs in launching Hebrew media that would target Israeli viewers.

Abu-Fadil said this is mainly due to the lack of strategic media planning in the Arab world in addition to the lack of qualified Hebrew-speaking journalists among Arabs.

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.”

The Washington Post reported that the channel does not have plans to broadcast in Hebrew, which reflects its focus on a regional and international audience, especially those with “negative” stereotypes about Israel.

“We are not right-wing, left-wing or Jewish. But we want to show that Israel has a place in this region,” Melloul told The Washington Post.

Melloul served as an advisor to former French President Jacques Chirac and played a role in the founding of the French television channel France 24.