By Mohammed Masbah
By Mohammed Masbah
Morocco World News
New York, April 25, 2012
Without any introductions and after years of silence, 2M Channel officials started waging a campaign of criticism against the new terms of references proposed by the young minister of communication, Mustapha El Khalfi. Those who used to open their mouths only when they visited a dentist, started talking about the autonomy and the identity of the channel.
This debate reflects a gradual change in the positions of the actors within the political landscape, which witnessed the rise of the opposition to the government, and initiated the implementation of its political project that it proposed during the elections. On the other hand, the authoritarian forces are retreating in the political field and their influences in the fields of economy, media and culture are shrinking. As a result, the authoritarian forces are starting to feel that their political, economic and intellectual interests are threatened in the medium and long term if the current process of gradual reform continues. This is because their interests contradict a competition-based economy.
Apparently, as the directors of 2M want to maintain the “identity” of the channel, they become concerned about its financial resources following the introduction of adjustments in the new terms of reference. However, the underlying reality is that there is an ideological and political conflict. The next phase will involve more fierce battles as far as the management of the resources of power is concerned (e.g., power, wealth and values).
The current conflict is taking place between a reformist trend and a conservative one. The latter benefits from the status quo, while the reformist trend has legitimacy that stems from the constitution and the powers that it provides to the government to implement its policies democratically. The reformists also have democratic legitimacy and popular support. On the other hand, the conservatives represent an influential unelected minority that obtained its power from its closeness to the Makhzen, as well from external support, especially France. The debate taking place now has exposed the francophone-led pockets of resistance that are opposing reforms. These pockets of resistance have failed to adjust to the transformation that Morocco is going through. The new political reality requires that these conservative forces adjust to the new developments rather than hinder and complicate them.
Regardless of the political discourse that is based on superficial economic and technical justifications regarding the change of 2M’s “identity” or “defending its autonomy,” in its core the discourse reflects the presence of some actors who control the game from behind the scene. It is a battle between the institutional actors (the elected government) and a shadow government that guides the battle through its own means in order to protect its interests.
The suspicion that this battle is controlled by some figures close to the royal palace is credible, which many researchers and journalists have talked about and is confirmed through objective information, since there are ties between the directors of 2M and some circles that are close to the royal palace. In addition, there is a history of proxy attacks against the Justice and Development party after the May 16 terrorist attacks and the propaganda of the authoritarian party (PAM) before it failed in the wake of the Arab Spring. The nature of the conflict taking place now is cultural and economic and is being displayed politically by the directors of 2M through the media.
Many of those who are critical of the new terms of reference have not read them or looked into how they work. Their criticism is not based on objective information. A close reading of the contents of the new terms of reference show the difference (methodologically and content-wise) between the proposed terms of reference and the previous ones.
Formally, the Ministry of Communication is supposed to prepare the terms of reference for public channels and then the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication authenticates the terms. However, the Ministry was always late in sending the terms of reference to the High Authority, and the latter found itself obliged to prepare them without consulting any other parties and finally signed them. But and according to a statement by minister El Khalfi, the Ministry of Communication has received around 35 memos from different interested bodies and institutions. Moreover, consultation meetings concerning the contents of the new terms of reference have been held with the different actors in the media sector, including the 2M syndicate. This was the first time that such consultations have taken place.
As far as the content is concerned, the terms of reference were based on the contents of the new constitution, especially its introduction and articles 3, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 31, as well as the audiovisual communication law. The terms of reference tried to reflect the contents of the new constitution by embodying and protecting the Moroccan culture and identity by means of giving the Arabic and Amazighi languages the status that they deserve in a channel financed by the taxpayers’ money.
This means limiting the domination of foreign languages (French) – a threat to the interests of the francophone forces and a blow to their alienating cultural model- which is alien to the Moroccan moderate culture. Article 32 of the terms of reference obliges 2M to broadcast 50% of its programs in correct simple Arabic, 30% in Amazighi as well as Arabic and El Hassani linguistic expressions, and 20% in foreign languages. This time allocation translates into the end of French language domination of 2M.
Furthermore, the preparation of the terms of reference has benefited from the French model in this field and from the role that the High Council for Audiovisual Communication plays, in terms of detailed regulations and guidelines for both public and private channels, especially concerning the protection of the youth and public order and the respect for the French language and culture.
The terms of reference oblige French channels to broadcast their programs in French, in addition to producing more than 50% of the programs by French and European companies to encourage national innovation and production. Moreover, French channels are banned from broadcasting any commercials that might have a negative impact on health, such as commercials of cigarettes and alcohol ads.
The mistakes of forces that oppose change will create a backlash similar to the reaction to the arrest of the militant Jama El Mouatassim. These mistakes will mobilize public opinion against 2M, particularly if we take into account that 60% of Moroccans don’t watch the national channels. Public opinion will consider any resistance to change as an obstacle to the elected government’s work. It requires courage to implement the requirements of the constitution in the media sector and to respond to the high aspirations of Moroccan citizens.
Translated from Arabic by Anouar Mzoudi
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and not necessarily reflect Morocco World News editorial policy.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved