Shems FM hits Tunisia airwaves
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 05/10/10
Tunisia launched its 4th private radio station on Monday (September 27th). Shems FM, the new youth-orientated station owned by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's daughter, is focussed on music and sports.
In another move to draw young listeners, Shems FM will broadcast in local dialect, rather than formal Arabic.
"The radio station in general targets a broad and diverse audience. It will give its listeners the chance to talk and the station will interact with them," said Shems FM chief editor Imed Ktata, "It will be a mirror that reflects the daily lives of Tunisian citizens."
Radio listeners were eager for the much-discussed new station to go on the air.
"I've been waiting for the launch of this radio station for so long," Mouna Bahri told Magharebia.
"When I listened to it, I felt there was a change in the pace of presentation, especially as most of the hosts are young people and I frankly liked their smoothness and quick-wittedness that encourages us to listen to it," she said.
Tunisian journalist Asma Bakouche was less impressed, noting that Shems FM's focus on mostly sports and music "is the same line adopted by all private media institutions in Tunisia, whether radio or TV stations".
"I don't think that this radio station will add much to the Tunisian media scene," she said. "I'm also surprised with the exclusion of all political programming from these institutions, as if those who speak about politics are opposition," Bakouche added.
One young listener, Mouna Abdelkader, also pointed out the format's limitations: "I don't think that the interests of Tunisian young people are restricted to music and sports only; rather, our concerns and interests are much wider."
"As a media initiative, Shems FM is welcomed," local journalist Mohamed Bououd said, adding, however, that "the station seemed to have forgotten, or rather deliberately forgotten, an important section in the Tunisian people, or Tunisian young people … because it didn't include in its programming any political or news programmes" .
For Fathi Bhoury, general manager of Shems FM, the new station represents progress in further opening up the media sector to private individuals.
But journalist Ziad El Heni pointed out that in 2003, when Mosaique FM began broadcasting, President Ben Ali "announced the opening of the audio-visual sphere for private sector initiatives" and confirmed that the government would review applications for creating private radio and television stations.
"None of this has happened over the last seven years," El Heni told Magharebia. "Rather, we saw how favouritism aggravated and licenses were given to 'close circles' and not to the 'private' Tunisian citizens," he added.
"I personally submitted an application requesting a license to launch a private radio station with a purely news nature called Carthage Radio Station," El Heni continued, "and I had to file many legal actions before the administrative court in order to obtain that right, but in vain."
The government has not approved any other operating licenses.
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