Magharebia (Washington DC)

7 December 2012

Algeria: Nation Seeks to Reform Audio-Visual Sector

Algiers — The law may not be ready, but new networks in Algeria are already eager to unseat the state's TV station dominance.

Algerian legislators will move forward with liberalising the audio-visual sector within the next few months, Algerian Communications Minister Mohand Said told a media industry seminar in Algiers on December 1st.

The law may not be ready, but the networks clearly are.

Algerian viewers are already used to watching Djazairia, Ennahar TV, Echourouk TV or Numidia News. Other stations are currently being launched and technical staffs are busy making the last adjustments.

Other stations broadcast from abroad but widely watched in Algeria include Morocco based and privately owned Medi1 and Al Magharibia (not affiliated with Magharebia.com), a network owned almost exclusively by the son of Abassi Madani, ex-leader of the Islamic Salvation Front.

Heads of these new networks admit it's hard to start from scratch. Editor-in-chief at Ennahar TV Hichem Mouffok says they "make the best of what we have, makeshift studios, facilities on a budget, and rookie journalists".

Echourouk TV doesn't have it any better. They make do with what is at hand.

One of their studios is located next to the headquarters of the newspaper by the same name, the other one is in the heights of Algiers. They are trying to launch the operation slowly but surely, says one of the leaders. In Kouba, they used an abandoned warehouse as a studio.

Nadia Zemmouche, editor-in-chief for Echourouk TV, spoke of the material and financial difficulties impacting their journalistic work.

"Not being able to broadcast from Algeria is a problem. We can't do live shows, and even our news show needs to be sent in two hours before its broadcast which prohibits us from covering the most recent news. With these temporary studios and our humble financial means, it all reeks of amateurism," she said.

In the meantime, Algerians are enjoying the new alternatives

"It's wonderful to have these stations," says Hassiba Lamri, a student. "It's such a change from the state television's official views. Finally we're hearing the people's voice, people complaining, speaking up freely about their problems. I think that's what Algerians were missing, a voice."

"Finally there are channels where we can talk and listen to other Algerians discuss their concerns... it's certainly better than public television," Riad Saidi, unemployed, said.

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