New TV channel tells Israel's side of the story
In this Sunday, July 28, 2013 photo, journalists works inside a studio of the new television channel I24news in Tel Aviv, Israel. The station's founders insist they are not an Israeli version of Al-Jazeera, the powerful broadcaster from the Gulf. They say they receive no government funding, hold no political affiliation and pledge to cover the news dispassionately and objectively. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — State-of-the-art TV studios above an ancient Mideast port signal Israel's arrival in a modern media landscape in which countries increasingly seek to broadcast their own perspective to the world.
Israel advocates have long alleged that their country is portrayed in an unfair and one-dimensional way by the international media, largely as an occupier of the Palestinians.
Now the answer has arrived in the form of i24news — the first international channel dedicated to reporting the news from an Israeli point of view. Its goal is to tell the rest of the Israel story in English, Arabic and French.
The new station's founders insist they aren't an Israeli version of the Qatar-funded Al-Jazeera pan-Arab channel. They receive no government funding, hold no political affiliation and pledge to cover the news dispassionately and objectively.
The initiative, which follows dozens of other attempts to tell Israel's side of the story, highlights a deep-seated sense that Israel is losing the battle over international public opinion and that its voice has been missing from a smorgasbord of news outlets.
"When you are talking about Israel in the international media today, it is only through the perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have to show that there are a lot of things about Israel that people don't know about," said Frank Melloul, the channel's chief executive. "What I want to do with this channel is to connect Israel to the world and connect the world to the Israeli reality."
To do so, i24news broadcasts around the clock, devoting 30 percent of its content to local coverage, including culture, technology and sports.
Its spacious studios in Jaffa, an ancient port city merged with Tel Aviv, include three glass-encased sets for simultaneous broadcasts in three languages, along with an integrated news desk for its 150 journalists.
The station went on the air less than two weeks ago, and most of the office space is still under construction. Though it is not yet clear how many people are watching, i24news says it can potentially reach 350 million households via cable and satellite operators in Europe, Asia and Africa. An expansion to the North American market is expected in early 2014.
Melloul, a former French diplomat, helped launch France24, a satellite channel aimed at improving France's international image. Other governments have engaged in similar outreach efforts, resulting in Russia Today, China's CCTV and Qatar's Al-Jazeera.
The Israeli effort is funded by private money. Much of it comes from Patrick Drahi, a French-Israeli telecom tycoon who owns HOT, an Israeli cable network of TV channels and telephone service providers.
Calling i24news a "startup channel," Melloul said its private ownership frees the station from government intervention.
"We are not talking about propaganda," he said, "(But) it is time to listen to another voice from the Middle East besides Al-Jazeera."
Walid Omary, Middle East bureau chief of the pace-setting and influential Al-Jazeera, said he was not familiar with the new station, but he welcomed the competition and considered it a compliment that others were trying to emulate his network.