Monte Carlo Doualiya (MCD), the Arabic-language radio station backed by the French government, began broadcasting in the UAE on Thursday on 95.3FM. The move is part of a four-year, €80 million (Dh389.2m) expansion of the 38-year-old radio station, which is trying to reach out to more young people and women through an FM service and mobile phones.
The launch also underscores the growing importance the French company's parent group is placing on reaching out to the Arab world, said Alain de Pouzilhac, the chief executive of the state-owned Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France (AEF), the station's parent company. "Monte Carlo Doualiya will make the vision and values of France better known in this part of the world, and show the difference in the political position that France takes in this part of the world", compared with the US and UK positions that now dominate the foreign-owned Arabic media landscape, Mr de Pouzilhac said.
The expansion comes a year after MCD's sister company, the television channel France 24, expanded its daily Arabic broadcast from four to 10 hours a day, just two years after the service was launched. "It is a priority for us to be closer to this part of the world," Mr de Pouzilhac said. The growth of Arabic activities comes with a reorganisation within AEF, which includes France 24, TV5Monde, and Radio France International (RFI), the parent of MCD.
The journalists contributing to MCD's programming will come from France 24 and MCD, making the Arabic broadcast a kind of laboratory for a new, collaborative journalism. "This department is a new model that makes Arabic-language TV and radio journalists work together," Mr de Pouzilhac said. The collaboration was designed to yield efficiencies that will ultimately save the group money, Mr de Pouzilhac said.
At the same time, AEF has been given authorisation to increase the share of its budget that comes from advertising, in the hopes of expanding its total budget over the next few years while reducing the amount of money it is given by the state. To do that, AEF planned to increase its share of advertising from €12m today to €45m by 2013, Mr de Pouzilhac said. "Step by step, the growing of the advertising will replace the investment that the state has to put into the Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France," he said.
The UAE is the 10th country in the MENA region to receive MCD on FM signal. MCD also broadcasts on FM frequencies in Jordan, Iraq, Djibouti, Qatar, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Mauritania, with its latest relay set up in Ramallah. MCD can also be heard throughout the US on mobile phone. The main program, La Matinale runs between 6am and 10am with news about the economy, politics, sports, the environment and new technology. To mark its opening in a new market, MCD will dedicate its broadcast today to programmes about the UAE.
Nahida Nakad, the deputy director of news for MCD and France 24's Arabic Service, said the station aimed to differentiate itself by being informative and entertaining for the broadest possible Arabic-speaking audience. "News isn't only politics," Ms Nakad said. "It is also supposed to be a mirror of life, in all its facets. That means we talk about politics, but we also talk about the art of living, health and everything else that makes a life."