CFI supports digitalisation of TV archives and sharing of expertise


Over Discop Africa 2, several producers and broadcaster expressed their concerns about the lack of skilled audio-visual staff in Africa. As an African broadcaster, who can you get help from in order to improve your company management and processes, get extra quality content, increase profitability and modernise your infrastructure?

As a small African producer, how can you distribute your content internationally?

CFI is able to support your efforts in many ways.

Sylvain Béletre of Balancing Act interviewed Etienne Fiatte, CFI Director, and Guillaume Pierre, CFI director Africa and Indian Ocean to find out more.

Q: On the fringes of Discop Africa 2 held from 16 to 18 September, CFI conducted two major cooperation initiatives. Could you please tell us more about that?

GP: These initiatives organised in Kenya are part of the co-operation mission conducted by CFI to develop the media, encourage sharing between North and South and promote cultural diversity.

CFI rallied French expertise in East Africa as we conducted two major co-operation initiatives with public and private East African TV channels in Kenya. The aim of this dual mission is to facilitate forging closer links between French operators and East African TV channels, thanks to the network and the knowledge of the African audiovisual sector developed by CFI in the last 20 years. CFI provided five experts from various French media operators, namely France 24, the French audiovisual institute (INA) and AITV.

They came along and shared their experience. CFI is working to protect African audiovisual heritage. In Nairobi, we have launched the project “Protecting and Promoting Archives” for public TV channels in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania back on 15 September, as part of the Plan Images Archives scheme initiated by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MAEE) in 2003. This project has been initiated by the Regional Audiovisual Department of the French Embassy in Kenya. David Hivet, Director of the Sales Department (INA) talked about the INA’s experience.

This initiative, scheduled to run over 18 months, aims to put forward new technical and strategic directions for these organisations to take. We want to help organise content archives' protection and how best to evaluate the challenges of operating and promoting them. The programme includes regional workshops for technical directors and chief information officers aimed at improving their skills in the field of IT and the switch to digital, tailor-made workshops designed to tackle the specific issues of each TV channel, and the development of archive-based coproduction. Check out our recent online interview with KBC - Protecting and Promoting Archives in Kenya : interview with Monica Waceke, Programme Director at the KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation).

Secondly, CFI promoted sharing between France 24, AITV and the East African media. We organised a seminar with France 24 entitled “International information, the French approach” on 16 September. This meeting brought together 20 or so chief editors from private and public TV channels in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Burundi. The agenda featured Folly Bah Thibaut, presenter of “The week in Africa” on France 24 who talked about the editorial identity of France 24; Georges Kazolias, an AITV reporter, addressed issues related to the status of press agencies and Daniel Couret, in charge of new technologies at France 24, talked about how information is handled on the channel’s Web site. Finally Jeff Koinange, a K24 anchor, tackled the international information viewed by African TV stations.

Q: What is exactly CFI - Canal France International's mission?

GP: We are now what you would call a TV content wholesaler-distributor, a training firm and an audiovisual consulting firm. We provide programs, advice, training and now celebrate 20 years of experience. Our key mission is about transferring expertise.

Q: how can CFI support an African TV channel?

GP: CFI has worked towards the development of television channels in Africa since the beginning. Our organisation aims to empower partners in the marketplace to supports processes with a view to foster democracy and good governance; CFI encourages independent operators, working with media regulatory bodies and nurturing professionalism among journalists.

We also supports the production and circulation of programmes from Africa. We have conducted a proactive purchasing policy to support the development of local African production and encourages the intelligent supply of programmes to TV partners.

CFI contributes to the modernisation of companies in the audiovisual sector. It helps TV channels to enhance their commercial and marketing strategy, facilitating the availability of studies on audience ratings and viewer expectations, bolstering their identity and helping them achieve better negotiating outcomes when purchasing rights.

Lastly, CFI works towards the set up and consolidation of public TV, communication and regulatory services. We have helped set up state broadcasting corporations, assisting managers to lead change and providing consulting services to hone their strategy in the switch to digital.

Q: What is CFI's annual budget?

EF: Between 18 and 19 Million Euros per year.

Q: How are you funded?

EF: CFI is financed at 90% from the French Foreign Ministry. We also get commissioned by International organisations and may get extra revenues from broadcasters.

Q: How and where do you get your information from in the African field?

EF: Via our local partners, and to a large extent from the French diplomatic network since we are a public entity. Agents working in French embassies and consulates are indispensable contacts for CFI, passing on information about the local media, as well as finding the right contacts and passing these on. They can also pinpoint projects, organise and jointly fund assignments for which they call on CFI. In short, their presence and initiatives greatly facilitate the implementation of CFI’s training and consulting assignments.

Q: You provide content: How do you nurture and protect local African productions?

GP: CFI purchases and pre-purchases original programmes produced in partner countries. It supports specific productions through training missions in television project management. This allows programmes to see the light of day and to be subsequently enjoyed by the maximum number of viewers.

CFI also facilitates and promotes exchanges, both between developing countries (South-South) and with industrialized countries (South-North). For example, CFI supplies the Malian variety show "Top Etoiles" and series made in Burkina Faso, like "Les Bobodiouf" or "Allô, police...", to all of its African TV partners.

Q: You supply training to broadcasters: Could you please tell us more about your training solution and its relevant topics?

GP: As an example, we have finalised training workshops for TV channels' news department on how to remain independent towards the presidential elections in Gabon. We also trained political journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Togo, etc.

Training programmes are designed to benefit industry professionals working for partner television networks, whether public service or private, and target the employees of these networks which may include freelancers. In 2007, 76 training missions were carried out, that is to say 1, 850 days of field expertise globally, including in Asia-Oceania, in the Arab world, in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Africa and Latin America. Again in 2008 CFI trained 1,472 professionals from the South, called on 151 French experts and carried out 104 cooperation assignments.

Some missions also tie in with medium-term support programmes and may run for a number of years. For example, television networks in Senegal, Burkina-Faso, Niger, Benin and Djibouti, are currently benefiting from a specific three-year consulting, research and training plan.

Q: Do you also get into technical training and support?

GP: Providing or upgrading the facilities of partner television channels does not lie within CFI’s remit. CFI provides technical support within the framework of its consulting missions. This may involve working with channels to carry out an assessment of technical infrastructures and draw up specifications, or analyzing operational organization and providing guidance on how to optimize performance.

Q: Where do you get your expertise from?

GP: CFI is supported in the implementation of its projects by the expertise of the France Télévisions group, as well as by other industry professionals working in the French television sector, either on a freelance basis, or from other French companies, including: Arte France, INA, TV5 (francophone channel), RFI, CNDP.

They include TV reporter-directors, editors, sports journalists, editorial managers, directors, marketing or research specialists, and programme directors. CFI’s experts are recognized and respected in their field. Increasingly, CFI is also calling on local talents who speak various languages and is investing in training programmes for trainers.

Q: Who do you work with in Africa?

GP: we have 150 partners including 75 TV partners in Africa, mostly TV stations. Therefore, Africa represents about 50% of our activities. We provide a large volume of content to African partners, and assist most of them in increasing their professional skills.