Jewish Media Mogul to Invest in Israeli Version of al-Jazeera News Channel

Channel will operate from Israel and broadcast in France in French, for the purpose of 'contributing to Zionism.'

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The controlling shareholder of the HOT cable TV company is to invest in a new television channel to be broadcast in France that will cover news of the Middle East from an Israeli perspective.

The Israeli-French businessman Patrick Drahi, who entered the Israeli communications market with his purchase in 2009 of a controlling interest in HOT, is expected to establish the station as an Israeli version of the Arabic channel Al Jazeera. It will operate from Israel and broadcast in France in French.

Haim Slutzky Communication Channels, the main producer of HOT's channels, is to produce the programs on the new station. Slutzky will reportedly own the channel and Drahi will take a share of the profits.

Later, an English version of the channel is to be launched, directed mainly at the North American market.

Sources close to Drahi said the Israeli government's public relations agencies will not be involved in the channel, and that the station's purpose will be to expose Israel's modern and vibrant lifestyle.

The new channel will operate on the infrastructure of the French channel Guysen, which is produced in Israel and currently broadcasts here on cable channel 144. The channel, which will reportedly be commercial and whose content will be mainly news related, will have no business connection to HOT.

Sources close to Drahi said: "Patrick Drahi has decided to contribute to the Guysen channel, which will operate and be wholly owned by Haim Slutzky, out of a sincere and real Zionist motivation to help improve Israel's image by presenting the vibrant, modern, young lifestyle of the Israelis who live here. In addition to the content broadcast from Israel, the channel will also document the life of Jewish communities abroad."

Sources in the communications market said the Yedioth Ahronoth group and the Internet news site Ynet, which is owned by the group, will help the new channel establish its news organization. The sources based their assumption on the existence of business connections between Drahi and Yedioth's head Arnon Mozes, the latter being a minority shareholder in HOT.

Sources speaking on Drahi's behalf added: "This contribution will allow the channel to vary its content and improve it, so as to expand the platforms on which it broadcasts, and it will become a brand with weight and influence in the world. Drahi believes that the balanced presentation of life in Israel throughout the world will help strengthen the country's image."

Slutzky confirmed the report and said the purpose of the new channel would be "to contribute to Zionism."

HOT and Ynet declined to respond.

Patrick Drahi. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
The Al Jazeera newsroom in Doha, Qatar.Credit: Reuters
When you're hot: A vendor tells Israeli consumers about the HOT television service, which lost 11,000 customers last year.Credit: Tomer Applebaum

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