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Profile: TV5 Offers A French Twist On Cable Dial

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

During the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, French officials made the exportation of their government-supported network, TV5, a national priority, primarily for its news component. French lawmakers released a report extolling the benefits of a “French CNN” to give Americans “a French perspective on global affairs” and combat the “cultural imperialism in information terms” posed by CNN and the BBC.
Such fighting words have not made Patrice Courtaban’s job any easier.
Mr. Courtaban, TV5’s chief operating officer, moved to the United States about two years ago to help establish the first stateside 24-hour French-language cable network. The net was signed by system operators in New York, San Francisco, Houston and Seattle.
“This is a way for Americans to get a different angle on the news,” Mr. Courtaban said. “I think people are looking for diversity in their news offerings.”
When the Iraq war brought U.S.-Franco relations to their modern-day nadir, Mr. Courtaban reminded his American counterparts that-combative declarations by French officials aside- his Montreal-based network was not strictly a news network, and not a product of France, but rather a collaborative effort by broadcasters in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada.
“We are a partnership between French-speaking countries,” Mr. Courtaban said.
Indeed, today the 33-year-old Mr. Courtaban vastly prefers to emphasize the net’s entertainment programming. He called BBC America a more accurate network model for TV5 than CNN is.
“The main reasons for people to subscribe are really French movies, sports and entertainment,” Mr. Courtaban said.
His goal is to increase TV5’s penetration on U.S. cable systems, and he has set his sights next on Chicago and Miami.