Who still watches the Algerian television outside Ramadhan? Not many I am sure.
Depending on their supposed “ideology”, most Algerians do watch
European French or Arab TV channels. So, if we consider news TV, the former would watch France24 and Euronews in French, and the latter would watch al Jazeera (not any more?), France24 or Euronews in Arabic (Algerians do not like al Arabiya, al Hurra, etc.). As to the generalist, movies and musical channels, you would have those watching French channels, and those watching their Arab competitors such as LBC, NBC, MBC, TBC, etc. (not sure all these channels do exist as I am not part of either groups). There is also another group which is probably a combination of the former ones and which watches some North-African channels, mainly Moroccan and Nesma TV.
The conclusion is nobody watches the Algerian channels, and they are so right about it. Forget the pre-90s period when everyone had to watch El yatima ENTV (I am a little nostalgic about this period which created a homogeneous Algerian mind with identical television souvenirs, but that’s another topic). Now we have Allah ibarek five state TV channels, but the quality has definitely degraded esp. if you compare with the late 80s and early 90s.
I had recently the chance (?) to zap between all these channels and I almost fainted. Channel 4 (Amazigh) is probably the worst as it is a caricature of what one could find in a remote village in Tizi-Ouzou. Besides, you would think that the Amazigh culture is a combination of singing and dancing, and perhaps making pottery. A3, my dear, I felt I was watching some alien channel (I have the same feeling when listening to Alger radio channel 1). The faces are strange, the humour is strange, everything is strange. Plus, it lacks dynamism. They’re lucky they have their sports journalists who saved their honour. Canal Algérie is a channel for nostalgic emigrants, and I mean those who left Algeria before the 80s; and don’t mention the very poor French you hear on there. ENTV, I cannot remember what it looks like. Coran TV (channel 5) is the only one which I find acceptable and which I can really watch. I am biased of course because I do not like much Iqraa and Rissala and I like the fact an Algerian channel
competes tries to compete with them. Simply put, the Algerian TV is mediocre, but what do you expect from a mediocre regime’s propaganda tool?! And it’s interesting that even Bouteflika shares this opinion (he would be blind or dishonest otherwise).
Algeria has already adopted the DVB-T standard (showing Europe’s lobbying force) for terrestrial television broadcast, but it wouldn’t make any sense to deploy it with only 3 TV channels (I suppose Canal Algérie and A3 won’t be transmitted “terrestrially” or the different agreements especially on football games broadcast would be amended). This reason alone could justify the addition of more channels.
Another reason would be to counter the behaviour of channels, such as al Jazeera today or the Egyptian TV channels two years ago, which is/was perceived as attacks against Algeria, its people and its government. Algeria is unarmed in this field and cannot defend itself.
You would ask, what about democracy and pluralism? Are they not good reasons to open up the audio-visual field?
There have always been calls to open the audio-visual field to private operators and the state had always said niet. Khalifa TV’s experience, which used to broadcast from France, was used to back this decision.
But things have changed. We’ve had the little riots of early this year combined with the so-called Arab spring. This led the pouvoir to launch some “reforms”. And as part of these “reforms”, the government finally agreed to let the private operators create their own radio/TV channels.
ElKhabar already announced that it wanted to start its TV and radio channels, and so did El Watan yesterday. Other economic operators such as Haddad, Rahim or Mehri are said to be candidates as well. I would guess Rebrab will be in the list too. A few weeks before Ramadhan, an Algerian group acquired the French channel BeurTV and is slowly changing its programs to address the Algerian audience.
But then what channels do we want/need? What about the content? And do you really believe the pouvoir would let them broadcast almost anything without any control or… censorship?
Rachad wanted to launch its TV channel on satellite but never succeeded. According to this opposition organisation, the Algerian and French governments forced a French satellite services operator to refuse to broadcast Rachad’s programs. The satellite group denied this version. Remember that Rachad’s website had been banned in Algeria for some time early last year if I remember well. Radio Kalima is still banned in Algeria as far as I know.
Also, we know that independent Algerian newspapers are not really independent and it is alleged that this or that either works for the DRS or Bouteflika’s clan or God knows who. Also, the pouvoir holds them all in its hands with the public advertisement resources. So shall we have a similar situation with the radio and TV channels to be created?
I wonder if the political parties will be allowed to have their own TV channels. I am actually afraid to have something like the Egyptians. Many useless TV channels which never criticise the pouvoir, when they do not propagate the pouvoir’s decisions. Haddad’s web TV seems to deal mainly (only?) with sports and I feel this is what our new TV channels will look like: music and sports.
So two questions to you, dear readers: Do you think the new radio/TV channels will be really free and independent from the pouvoir? And what kind of channels do you want to see?