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BID TO LAUNCH PAN-AFRICAN SATELLITE TV NEWS NETWORK

Driven by the vision of Africans reporting on Africa for the world, a group of professional broadcasters, business people and reporters is setting up a pan-African satellite television network within a year.

Modelled on Arabic satellite network al Jazeera and led by Salim Amin, son of legendary Kenyan photojournalist Mo Amin, Africa TV aims to be an independent voice reporting on all events -- good and bad -- to the continent and the rest of the world.

"My vision is to give a more balanced view of Africa by Africans rather than by foreign correspondents," Amin told Reuters yesterday.

"The way the international 24-hour news machine works the big networks have a lot of other big stories that need to be covered and they can't devote the resources that I believe are necessary to cover Africa properly," he added.

Amin, in London to drum up interest and investment in the venture, noted that U.S. news network CNN and Britain's Sky Television had just one African bureau each while the BBC has four to cover the continent's 53 countries.

"With those few bureaux you can't really be everywhere, and what they do concentrate on is the big news stories and they are unfortunately usually the ones about war, famine, corruption and HIV," he added.

"We are not here to do PR for Africa. But we want to balance the hard news stories with stories about the successes on the continent -- the people, the fashion, the entertainment, the sport, the music," he added.

Amin pointed to the booming middle class eager for news about fellow Africans, and the large African diaspora anxious to keep track of news from home but offered scant means to do so.

The aim is to eventually have a small television crew in every African capital broadcasting in an array of the continent's multiplicity of languages.

But when the channel goes on air it will initially only be in English and French and is unlikely to cover more than half of Africa.

Amin acknowledged that others had tried and failed, but said that new technology from mobile phones to the Internet made it easier and cheaper to produce a service and avoid interference from governments known for their dislike of independent media.

"Through these means as well as standard television and radio we are hoping we can get the message out to the majority of people," he said.

"If we can at least make a little bit of a dent and get Africans talking to each other ... we can put pressure on governments to be accountable as al Jazeera has done," he added.

Hoping to raise initial capital of up to $35 million, ATV aims to be testing by the end of December this year and on air from March 6, 2007.

But in the meantime Amin and his team have to put together a watertight business plan.

"We are convinced this is feasible. But we need the business plan to prove it," he said. "We will be reporting without fear or favour. That is the goal and the vision. I don't know if it is possible, but I think it is.

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