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March 23, 2017 3:42 pm

Israel-Based International TV Broadcaster i24 News CEO: Our DNA Is Telling the Truth About the Middle East From the Only Democracy in the Region

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Interview

i24 News CEO Frank Melloul. Photo: Courtesy.

The head of a budding international 24-hour tri-lingual news channel based in Jaffa told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that the dream of its owner — to give a comprehensive view of the Israeli-Arab conflict and connect the Middle East to the rest of the world — was being realized faster than originally anticipated.

Not only that, said Frank Melloul, CEO of i24 News, but the Knesset just unanimously approved the network’s license to broadcast in the Jewish state, where it has been in operation for nearly four years.

According to Melloul, the impetus for the channel, which now has state-of-the-art studios in Israel, Europe and the United States — its New York City operation opened mere weeks ago in the Reuters building in Times Square — was a vision had by its owner and founder, French businessman Patrick Drahi.

Drahi, he explained, was in Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s war against Hamas in November 2012, and he was among the rest of the population of Tel Aviv running to bomb shelters with every rocket barrage from Gaza. Melloul said, “He was very upset not to see coverage on the main networks of this aspect of the conflict — that what precipitated Israeli actions were missile attacks on Israel — and he thought: ‘How are you going to understand what’s going on in the Middle East without showing the global picture?’”

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This, according to Melloul, “is the DNA of i24 News.”

Drahi soon contacted Melloul, a French diplomat with a specialty in public diplomacy — which Israel calls “hasbara” — who had been involved with the team that launched the round-the-clock Paris-based news channel France 24.

“Look,” Drahi said to Melloul. “You know how to build an international news network and I know how to build a business. I’m pretty sure that together we can turn my dream into a reality.”

Within a month, Melloul said, “I decided to leave the French government and immigrate to Israel with my family. A month after that, we found the location in Jaffa, a hangar along the Mediterranean, and 100 days later, we were on the air.”

Melloul called Jaffa — “a beautiful Arab-Jewish city and symbol of coexistence” — a perfect venue for the station.

Exactly a year later, in July 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas’ terrorist tunnel and rocket infrastructure in Gaza. This time, Melloul said, there was an i24 News reporter standing along the border covering what was going on, real-time. “And he was conveying the whole picture — just as Drahi had pictured,” Melloul stated.

In addition, he said, “When a show host in the studio in Jaffa told the audience that he had to stop his broadcast as an air raid siren indicated he had to enter a shelter due to a Hamas rocket attack, it showed a reality — facts on the ground — that much of the world had not been hearing or seeing.”

Melloul added, “The point is that we are reporting from the heart of the Middle East, from the only democracy in the region, in English, French and Arabic, which gives us the opportunity to show the rest of the world what is going on in languages they can understand.”

To illustrate the channel’s reach, Melloul said that it was selected to cover an important African-Israeli summit being held next October. “And a few weeks ago we were given a scoop by a member of the opposition in Syria, who chose i24 News to deliver a message to the Israelis,” he noted.

Where the political leanings of the station — which has some 350 employees — are concerned, Melloul said, “For the Left, we are too right-wing, and for the Right, we are too left-wing. This means we’re doing our job. Our journalists do not express their opinions. Everyone has the opportunity to speak on i24 News, including a Hamas spokesman who regularly debates an Israeli counterpart. Most of the time they end up shaking hands when they’re done. Today, if people think that Israeli-Arab peace is not possible, it’s because of the media.”

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