The EU-funded MedMedia programme has published the latest of its five assessment reports focusing on the media sector in the Southern Mediterranean Region.
The Public Service Broadcasting report by Dima Dabbous PhD presents a stark picture of the challenges facing public broadcasting in the region and ongoing efforts to overcome them.
Covering nine countries, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia the research considers content, structures, legislation and funding that can best serve state media in countries experiencing a period of transition. Its findings indicate that the significant reforms which have been made in the wake of the Arab Spring have had limited impact in practice.
“Governments, in a context of rising security concerns, are reluctant to ease control over state broadcasters”, said Dr Dabbous, Visiting Assistant Professor at the Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. “A dire regional economy has also impacted on government funding which remains insufficient to cover technical upgrades, training or programme development,” she added.
Meanwhile, efforts have been made to develop public service content and respond to the need for national coverage that reflects local interests and concerns. Jordanian and Lebanese broadcasters have started to respond to their audiences’ needs through the transmission of major national, sporting and cultural events. In Morocco, regular audience surveys and the creation of the role of “mediator” were enacted to encourage feedback and audience participation.
Most public broadcasters in the region continue, however, to rely on imported shows and reruns rather than produce relevant and current programming. As a consequence, audiences in the region turn to private and regional broadcasters.
“The challenges posed to public service broadcasting are particularly acute in a region where the digital revolution has coincided with a political revolution”, said Aida Al-Kaisy, BBC Media Action’s Special Advisor on Media Reform who wrote the preface to the report .
“This report aims to stimulate constructive debate on the raison d’être of public service broadcasting across the Southern Mediterranean Region”.
MedMedia is an EU-funded project aimed at supporting the institutions and individuals committed to reforming the media sector in the Southern Mediterranean Region.