According to the recent announcement made by the Moroccan Ministry of Communications which establishes the National Company for TV and Radio, Moroccan media in general has taken a step towards liberation from years of administrative dominance that it has been subjected to. Now it is only steps away from a long awaited change for the liberalization of the audio-visual media sector, a change which has become strongly required in order to reconcile Moroccan viewers with National TV which has made harsh specialized TV critics out of its viewers.
It is rare to find someone who is not critical of the Moroccan TV’s first channel, better known as “RTM”. Over the last few years, RTM has been under the spotlight of the Moroccan press which allocates weekly appendixes to inform its readers of the latest news in Dar Al Berehy where the channel is located. The coverage includes mismanagements, quarrels between employees and the administration, in addition to intricate and cynical comments on the mistakes of the broadcasters.
While a number of journalists, directors, and technicians decided to leave RTM for a more professional environment offered by other Arab news channels, the audience also in expression of discontent have turned their attention to other Arab and foreign channels such as the Egyptian, Lebanese or the Gulf funded channels whether they offer news, music or religious programs. RTM’s administration announces some reforms and changes every now and then that include the appointment of new directors for vital sectors such as news and entertainment, nevertheless, they remain limited and formal. They fail to respond to the needs of their audiences and their right to a professional media message that plays a role in increasing awareness, culture and entertainment.
Last November, Morocco launched its third Satellite Channel called “Al Maghribiyah” which airs programs that have been previously shown on RTM and the second Moroccan channel, 2M TV. Last March, a fourth channel which is labelled an educational channel was launched. Both steps demonstrate the Moroccan attempts to bring its media out of incompetent immobility. However, it would seem that neither of the new channels has achieved any added quality or revitalization to its field.
In spite of the fact that Morocco was a leading Arab country in entering the realm of TV Satellite Broadcasting in 1993, its Satellite TV Channel did not match the orientation of the other new Arab Satellite Channels. Instead it generally kept its official direction, which explains the receding viewer ship.
Morocco was also a leading African and Arab country in permitting a private coded channel as early as 1989 which was a major media event back then due to the openness and freedom which was enjoyed by the new channel.
However, the project lasted only six years after which the channel underwent financial pressures largely because of illegal decoding and the high subscription rates. The state then intervened to come to its defence and save it from bankruptcy transforming it into a public state owned channel and cancelling the coded broadcasting. Since then the Moroccan state owned two public channel the first being RTM and the second channel is 2M TV which was formerly private. It is noted that 2M TV is far less subject to criticism in comparison to RTM.
The Law for the Liberalization of Audio-Visual Media, which was preceded by the establishment of the Higher Audio-Visual Media Authority supervising its application, has become effective since last January. Former Moroccan Media Minister, Mohamed Al ‘Arabi Al Massari commented on this change by saying, “ the state’s decline from the monopoly of the Media is a sign of the state’s self confidence. This only means that the modern democratic project has completed one of most successful tools and now it is up to the society to take the initiative of constructing its own media”. He clarified that “the new law gives the TV and Radio public sector a window for improvement because it recognizes that it still has a role but within a set of different circumstances unlike the customary ones it was born into.”
The public media sector is subject to the same rules that apply to the private media Including conditions of operations and penalties if commitments are not honoured.
Those commitments should include at the top, the respect of pluralism.
Before all, the Public Media Sector should acquire a culture of public service which means that it is legally required to act as a public service and not as a servant of the government whether it emerges from a single political party or an alliance of more than one. It should realize that it is a servant of the entire public opinion and that it is required to reflect pluralism and multi source news in addition to all the other principles documented in the chapter of Public Rulings.” Al Massari also pointed out to the fact that criticism against public radio and television stemmed from their unilateral orientation which
has become excluded by the new law. The criticism was also caused by the
employment status of the employees who were seen as government employees before the new law, but now they are perceives as associates of a national company. Al Massari said “imagine the positive effects of replacing the culture of orders by a new culture of professionalism.”
The president of the Higher Audio-Visual Media Authority, Ahmad Ghazali said that “the liberalization of the audio-visual media stems generally from the constitution which emphasizes pluralism, freedom of opinion and freedom of initiative which is in turn embodied in Morocco’s ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Ghazali highlighted the fact that the course of present liberalization is a break away from a time when the media was exclusively subject to the will of the political authorities. Back then, he added “the law which regulated the media was overridden by status and suffered from ambiguities and compromises.”
Ghazali made it clear that “in addition to the consultation, regulatory, and observatory tasks that his authority is expected to carry out, it is called upon to maintain the free nature of audio-visual communications and ensure they are openly practiced in accordance with public rights. “ Whilst we wait for the results of this “TV revolution” to be displayed on the Moroccan screen, the variety of different channels remain open before the Moroccan viewer to satisfy his taste and curiosity.