A group of Brazilian and Argentinean producers, spearheaded by Brazil's Luiz Carlos Barreto, are teaming up to launch, TV Mercosul, a cable and satellite channel dedicated to Latin American programming.

The venture also includes Brazil's Anibal Massaini and Marcos Altberg - who, along with Barreto, are shareholders in Brazilian movie channel Canal Brasil - and Argentinean producer Fernando Solanas.

The pay-TV network will initially be available in Brazil and Argentina and later expand to the other two member countries of economic trade group Mercosur - Paraguay and Uruguay - and the rest of Latin America.

The group of producers is trying to raise at least $10m seed money in time for a January 2001 launch date. Among potential investors are development bank BID, Rio de Janeiro industry federation FIRJAN, chamber of commerce SENAC and the Rio de Janeiro local government.

Programming on the channel will include current and financial news, cultural programmes, talk shows and films from Brazil, Argentina and other countries in the region. They will not be sub-titled or dubbed. "It's necessary for each of the countries to understand what is spoken in the other. Brazilians will learn Spanish, and Argentineans, Portuguese," said Barreto. "We hope TV Mercosul will foster a cultural exchange between Brazil and the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America," he added.

TV Mercosul will have its headquarters in Rio de Janeiro while its operational base will be located in Buenos Aires.

Andrea Boross Queiroga IN RIO DE JANEIRO contributed to this report