Algeria: Broadcasting revolution in the air


The opening of the Algerian broadcasting will create private national television stations. The end of a state monopoly becomes grotesque as it faces hundreds of satellite channels available there.

If one were to measure the effects of social revolts in Algiers which in Tunisia and Egypt, took away dictatorial regimes, we could summarize the lifting of emergency rule in effect for nearly twenty years, and promises to open broadcasting services to private investors. Furthermore, this is a major upheaval.

For half a century - the age of independent Algeria - radio and television, called "heavy media" are a state monopoly. Traditionally, the choice of leaders of these enterprises, the allegiance took precedence over competence, docility towards the powerful over initiative spirit, sycophancy over creativity. All attempts at liberalization of the late 1980s have quickly petered out. The authority has, rightly or wrongly, felt that the impact of a free television was a threat to its survival.

The problem is now not about plurality of supply. Since the invasion of satellite channels and the digital revolution, the Algerian media landscape is varied, and the viewer has, thanks to satellite dishes that disfigure roofs and facades of buildings in towns and villages, hundreds of Arab or Western channels (mainly French). However, he never had the opportunity to "zap Algerian", even if domestic supply is now plural - there is a bouquet of five channels, but perfectly binoculars, offering identical programs. Why was the power so afraid of a free TV?

Boualem is a retired Algerian Television Broadcasting (RTA, ancestor of the current National Television Company, ENTV). Former trade unionist, he explains the obsession with programs control by the government. "It is linked to the history of this country. The legitimation of power comes from the liberation war. In early 1960, Algerian television was a sort of subsidiary of the ORTF [French television broadcast Office, Ed], television institution of the colonial power. On the eve of independence, all French managers and technicians left Algeria in disaster. And it is the staff of Algeria, unskilled, who took over. The cameraman became director, the prop, anchor, and the carpenter set, telecine operator [device of another age that convert films into a video signal]. It was laborious, but it worked. In those circumstances was born the RTA, which has become an instrument of national pride and sovereignty. "

But this argument does not explain history alone, the desire to hold on the image and its products locally. The flow of ideas in the media sphere does not seem to represent unduly inconvenience to the government. In terms of print, liberalization has been effective for two decades, with impressive results: 180 titles, a daily circulation of more than 3 million copies (a record for the Arab world, Egypt included) and newsrooms beyond control of the state.
The explanation is probably due to the vector of transmission itself. Despite its program schedules, the paucity of its information and the mediocrity of its skin, public television has withstood competition from foreign channels from heaven. All Médiamétrie polls in recent years confirm that the 20 hours news slot of ENTV is ever-present and gets record-breaking audience. That is why governments have been reluctant to leave this great communication tool to escape. The Arab Spring has shaken this situation.

Within the scope of the reforms announced by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the opening of the audiovisual arena takes the form of a frequency distribution for the exclusive benefit of Algerian company completing a specification (in preparation) and after favourable opinion of the High Audiovisual Council (CSA) whose contours, prerogatives and components should be determined after consultation between the government and the corporation. But it is the administration that, ultimately, delivers the broadcast authorization. You can never be too careful.

Translated from French

Source: 16/11/2011 - By Cherif Ouazani.

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