In less than a week, if all goes according to plan, i24News – a first of its kind Israeli 24-hour international TV news station – will go live. The station will broadcast in English, French and Arabic from its spanking new studios in the Jaffa port – to audiences across the globe.
Frank Melloul, 39, a Swiss-born former French diplomat who was instrumental in launching and running France’s 24 hour news station – France24, was brought in several months ago to build up and run the endeavor. He came at the request of Franco-Israeli telecom tycoon Patrick Drahi, the moneyman behind the project.
Drahi, the main shareholder in a French cable company called Numericable SA, which operates in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, entered the Israeli communications market three years by purchasing a controlling stake in the HOT cable TV company.
According to those involved with the project, 150 journalists, editors and others have already been hired as staff, all of them to be based in Israel. In addition, the plan is to also use freelance journalists based overseas to round out coverage, which, Melloul says, will be 70 percent focused on international news, and 30 percent on regional and Israel news.
News bulletins are planned for every 30 minutes, said Melloul, while other content, including debates, round tables and talk shows, will be co-produced in conjunction with Haim Slutzky Communication Channels – a producer of material for HOT and for Channel 8.
I24News will broadcast around the clock in English and French – and five hours each day in Arabic. This coming year, Melloul said, it will be possible to watch i24News via satellite in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia – with plans to launch it in the United States in 2014.
More detailed information regarding programming, and how and where exactly the channel will be broadcast remained under wraps this week, but Melloul stressed that one thing i24News was not intended to be – was an Israeli propaganda machine.
“We are not receiving one shekel from Israel and we will not answer to anyone,” Melloul said, repeating over and again that the Israeli station would be independent.
But, he also noted, “…it’s about time we had another voice to hear in this region besides that of Al Jazeera. We will offer a different point of view to those zapping between channels.” i24News, he said, will tackle “ignorance and “prejudice” against Israel – through facts and “diversity.”
Danna Harman, Haaretz’s former Europe correspondent, returned to Israel this year to write feature stories for the paper’s new digital edition. Prior to joining Haaretz, Danna worked for the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) as their Africa Bureau Chief, based in Nairobi, as well as their Washington, D.C.-based national feature writer, and their Latin America bureau chief (in a joint appointment with USA TODAY), based in Mexico City.
Danna has further travelled the globe on special reporting assignments for CSM and other papers and magazines to everywhere from Iraq, Yemen, Burma and Afghanistan to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. She began her journalism career 16 years ago as an Associated Press local hire in her hometown of Jerusalem, and later became the Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent, covering three prime ministers and half a dozen peace talks. Danna has a BA from Harvard University, and an MA in Islamic Studies from Cambridge University.