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Shems FM hits Tunisia airwaves

By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 05/10/10

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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."

Shems FM joins three other private stations in Tunisia: Mosaique FM, Zaytouna and Jawhara.

The government has not approved any other operating licenses.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    أشرف 2011-3-3

    Thank you for your honesty!


  2. Anonymous thumb

    Essid 2010-10-17

    If the president’s daughter is the owner of Shems FM, it cannot be called a private radio station. The dichotomy of “private” and “public” will not suffice to describe Tunisia’s political economy – but “embezzlement” should suffice. In an ideal political system, public wealth ensures universal goods and services for the society as a whole. This is why we have the category “public”. But Tunisia has a system where taxes are used to subsidise narrow interest groups, not the public as a whole. This is how Ben Ali’s family became rich and this is how his daughter is now able to be the owner of a radio station. The principal function of the Tunisian government is to privatize public wealth. The elite do something for the universal good only when they see it will increase their own profit margin in the time frame they want. This is why our population remains significantly uneducated because the monetary advantage of an educated workforce would not come quick enough for the political elite. Instead, our wealth is used for one of six things: a military force; an ideological force (Shems FM), “subsidies” for the ruling elite’s pockets; “subsidies” for businesses owned by the elite, which will then put more money in their pockets; and public goods to keep the people from becoming angry so that they do not revolt and so that they are educated enough to produce more wealth for the elite. And this is the proper order for this list. Our system is one of embezzlement, and Shems FM, a product of embezzlement, will likely be doing propaganda for this system. They embezzle the people’s wealth to brainwash them into thinking that this is not embezzlement – a sad cycle.