Rabat/Beirut, Asharq Al Awsat – A number of Arabic satellite channels have finally addressed the countries of the Maghreb region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania), which feel they have been ignored when it comes to Arab broadcasting. Over the past few months, various Arabic satellite channels have launched sister-channels that target audiences in the North Africa region in the same way that they have focused on America, Australia and Europe – MBC, Dubai, Al Jazeera and LBC among them.
Sanaa Eskandar, a public relations representative from LBC told Asharq Al Awsat that the reason behind the channel’s decision to launch LBC Maghreb, “was based on research in that region that was concerned with market demands and that the preparation for this project has been in the works for over a year. We live in a media age in terms of expansion and it is essential for LBC to be part of this expansion, and of this growth in general.” According to Eskandar, the decision to launch a project specific to that region was to develop and cover an important part of the Arab world and yet simultaneously be distinguished by certain particularities in terms of language and tradition and some requirements so that it would be an Arab channel with a distinct Lebanese flavor in a way that is in keeping with respect for the region.
At the moment, LBC is relying on some of its most popular programs such as ‘Ya Leil Ya Ain’, ‘Ma’a Maggie’ and ‘Talbeen al Qarb’ in addition to a number of Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian series – but soon, LBC Maghreb viewers will be able to watch the Algerian reality show ‘Ishoo Barari’, which is produced by LBC.
Abdul Wahab al Rami, a Moroccan media expert, told Asharq Al Awsat that regarding the channels that seek to profit from advertisements, the situation is not too promising because the market in the region is weak and they cannot really make profits due to the publicly owned media’s monopoly of it. He adds, however, that there is potential for the market in the future if it opens up to globalization, especially that Morocco is open to economic liberalism and is one of the most enthusiastic countries to sign the Free Trade Agreement. He stated that before the Arabic channels took notice of the this sensitive part of the world, France, which occupied parts of the region for many years, had already recognized the media and cultural vacuum and allocated a large budget to preserve its distinguished language, culture and media in the region.
French television channels such as France 2 and France 5 have addressed their North African audiences, as well as newspapers and magazines all of which showed more interest in the Maghreb region than the eastern media did. A number of years ago, France sought to establish a French and Arabic language television channel to target the Maghreb region. The project has been realized through MEDISAT, which will begin broadcasting soon from Tangier, northern Morocco, in the same city where the Francophone radio station ‘Medi 1’ [Radio Méditerranée Internationale] is based since its establishment in the early 1980’s. ‘Medi 1’ has enjoyed an outstanding success, winning over listeners from Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania. MEDISAT however, continues to face many obstacles that may hinder its future success and cause it to appear on the list of failed channels.
In the same context, Younes Mujahid, the Secretary-General of the National Union of Moroccan Press (SNPM) indicated that the interest shown by Arab channels in the Maghreb region is of a political nature rather than economic, especially considering the competition between Arab countries evinced by the blatant competition between the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya channels. Moreover, Middle Eastern media companies have come to sense the importance of the Maghreb region and its issues by virtue of its proximity to Europe – Morocco being the most liberal of the North African countries that will offer some channels more security and guarantees in dealing with various news items and fieldwork.