Private TV networks emerge in Algeria
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 07/06/12
In recent months, Algerians limited to state programming have seen the birth of several independent TV networks.
The new media choices are arriving on the scene in spite of a stalled reform process to liberalise the sector and open up TV and radio to private industry, as promised by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in January 2011.
Since new legislation on broadcasting has yet to be enacted, many of these new networks have been bypassing a lockdown by broadcasting their programmes from abroad. The stations' journalists and technicians, however, are based in Algeria. Among those are Echorouk TV, Ennahar TV, El Djazairia, Al Magharibia, El Adala and Dzair Shop TV.
El Djazairia, a network launched by two communications experts, aims to unite Algerians. Following a short trial period, the station began broadcasting last April.
In an interview with Algerie News, Mohamed Redjdal, co-owner of the network and head of the production company studio, explained that the main goal was to satisfy viewers who aspire to real television programming. His network emphasises culture and entertainment, mostly because there has been such a need for it, he said.
"You can't just sit around and blame the situation on the country's recent struggle," Redjdal said, claiming that his network will breathe new life into this once paused cultural dynamic – one that now desperately wants to shine through.
The network also features a news programme.
"For the longest time, there was only one way to do the news so that's what I did," The show's anchor, Mustapha Kissassi said. "Some of us young people tried to make changes to improve the content and the methods, but it was just pointless."
Even working class papers that started out in print, such as Echorouk and Ennahar, have launched their own TV stations.
In one of his magazine's features, Echorouk head Eli Fodhil explained that, given that its headquarters are in Jordan, the network falls under foreign law.
"Echorouk TV pays 100,000 dollars per year to broadcast from Nilesat," he said, adding that the network applied to the communications ministry so journalists could work legally in Algeria.
Ennahar TV chief Anis Rahmani has bemoaned that Algerian legislation won't allow the opening of the media despite the government's assurances.
Abdellah Djaballah, leader of the Front for Justice and Development party, has acquired his own TV network, El Adala, which broadcasts from Bahrain. "The programmes are exclusively devoted to the party's activities: trips, meetings, candidates' statements, citizens' reports," Aïssa Korichi explained to Magharebia.
On another note, the channel Al Magharibia, which is not affiliated with the news website Magharebia.com, is no longer available on Nilesat.
In a February press release, station head Salim Salhi indicated that British Telecom had revealed that its subcontracting company had been subject to pressure from an unnamed North African country regarding the content of Al Magharibia's programming. The statement went on to say that the network intended to start legal proceedings to seek compensation and reveal those responsible.
Many Algerians have castigated the network, alleging they were somehow connected to the now-disbanded Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
Communications Minister Nacer Mehal, faced with the new network proliferation, stated that, because of the legal vacuum, there was not much he could do. In an interview with the APS on May 2, he admitted that his department didn't have a specific financial plan in mind for the new networks but that the media law in the works would take care of that aspect. However, he added they still need to consult with every party involved.
For now though, the viewers' reactions are nuanced. Anima, a student, said she was pleasantly surprised by El Djazairia: "For beginners, I think they're doing pretty well. Their entertainment shows are good, especially 'maâ Zahra', as well as the one-man show set in an Algiers type café."
Malik, 40, pointed out that private Turkish stations began by broadcasting from Germany in the 1990's and this station started out in England the same way.
"You can't be too critical," he told Magharebia. "Beginnings are never perfect, but you'll see, as soon as ENTV has more manpower and equipment, quality will improve."
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