Africa

Africanews joins continent's TV fray

Veronica Narkwor Kwabla, deputy chief editor of new pan-African news channel Africanews in the channel's Pointe-Noire studio Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Africanews's deputy chief editor Veronica Narkwor Kwabla hosted the channel's launch press conference

Africanews, a 24-hour news TV station targeting viewers across the continent, has launched from studios in Congo-Brazzaville's port city of Pointe-Noire.

The station is a subsidiary of established France-based network Euronews and broadcasts via satellite, digital terrestrial TV and online.

It says it is carried by pay TV providers across Africa, reaching 7.3 million homes in 33 countries.

Re-broadcasting deals with stations in Cameroon, Senegal, Madagascar and Mauritius give it additional reach in 3 million TV homes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The channel is based in Pointe-Noire, southern Congo

The "fully-fledged pan-African network" says its mission is to "empower people through independent and reliable news".

Currently broadcasting in English and French, it has ambitions to launch in Swahili, Portuguese, Hausa and Wolof and other languages.

Presenter-free

As on its sister network, Africanews bulletins do not have in-vision presenters and correspondents, relying instead on voiced-over video. Footage - much of it sourced from Euronews and French news agency AFP - is accompanied by an on-screen ticker.

Bulletins on launch day, 20 April, featured the burning of poached ivory in Cameroon and the kidnapping of Red Cross workers in Mali. A business news section looked at plans to reopen a Kenyan bank and at unemployment in Zimbabwe.

Ambitions

Africanews says it aims to meet a demand for news without "ideological preference" and to reflect diverse points of view.

The channel is not "Euronews Africa" and will be editorially independent of the Lyon-based parent network, says CEO Michael Peters.

Image copyright Africanews
Image caption CEO of Africanews and Euronews Michael Peters appeared at the launch of the channel with Nathalie Wakan (L), deputy editor-in-chief for the channel's French service

"The demand for unbiased news is unmet. There is a gap to fill. This is why we are launching Africanews to pioneer independent news from the African perspective," Mr Peters says.

"We're going to steer people away from the African stereotypes. This is going to be one of the best things ever for African media," says Robert K'Odingo, an Africanews journalist.

Challenges

But distribution via pay TV networks may limit the station's reach. Many African viewers opt for free-to-air terrestrial platforms and most African countries are still to make the switch to digital terrestrial broadcasting.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The government of newly re-elected President Denis Sassou Nguesso keeps tight control over the Congolese media

Political pressures could also arise. The Congolese government exercises strong controls over the media and the country is experiencing political turbulence following the controversial re-election of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso for a third term.

Mr Peters defends the decision to base the station in Congo, saying it was the only country to meet three key criteria: access to fast internet; easy access to other parts of Africa; and guarantees of editorial independence.

Opportunities

Africanews may benefit from a lack of competition. With 24-hour tailored news output dedicated to Africa, the TV could give other international broadcasters operating in Africa a run for their money.

Euronews itself has expanded its reach in sub-Saharan Africa in the last year, signing distribution deals with South African pay TV giant DStv Africa and Senegal-based Ouest TV.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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