Without government authorization, Sala Web Radio TV continues to try to get its shows, that focus on topics from youth empowerment to women’s health, heard by the people of Sale city.
Sale – Her foot tapped anxiously moments before she heard a countdown that ended with the “action” cue and the pushing of the recording button. It was the opening episode of a new radio show, and it was Hajar Ghandaan’s first time hosting.
For the inaugural episode of her new series “Our Youth Are Capable,” Ghandaan was interviewing the Moroccan coordinator of an international organization that focuses on inspiring problem-solving within youth.
“I was so nervous, you can’t even imagine,” Ghandaan told Morocco World News. “After the first episode my friends were nice but honest with me, they said the show was good but that I talked way too fast.”
The 21-year-old volunteers for Sala Web Radio TV, the only community radio in Sale, a neighboring city to Rabat.
The station, located on the outskirts of northern Sale, has a variety of programs that touch on popular subjects like youth empowerment and more taboo topics like sexual health.
“The programs we produce deal with issues that are not always talked about by Moroccan society,” Hassan Benzalla, the station’s program coordinator, told MWN. “That’s why our station has educational value.”
The luminous neon yellow and blue walls is what first caught Ghandaan’s eye when she visited the station as a guest. But she stayed to become part of a movement she believes is changing her city’s narrative.
“I want to give the spotlight to young people who deserve it, so that they can break the stereotypes of Sale,” Ghandaan said. “Media is all about giving a vision or a view on something. So, why not use this media to introduce people to a more beautiful Sale.”
The city of approximately 900,000 people sits directly across the Bouregreg river from Morocco’s capital, Rabat. Sale rose to international notoriety after becoming a haven for Barbary pirates in the 17th century.
According to Ghandaan, Moroccans commonly associate the city with crime, drugs, and a lack of infrastructure—many apparently referring to it as “Lesser Rabat.”
She hopes her new show, which highlights inspiring youth who are making change in the city, motivates others to step up and begin addressing their community’s problems.
“Unemployment here is so high and sometimes people just need a little bit of inspiration to get started,” Ghandaan said. “Promoting youth empowerment is so important because people should know they can start making change no matter how old they are.”
There are commonly only two main forms of radio airwaves, amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM). The difference between the two airwaves is that FM has a higher frequency, allowing for better sound.
Sala Web Radio TV is on neither.
Since its start in 2014, the station has struggled to receive government permission to join the publicly-available radio airwaves. This has forced all of the station’s programs to remain strictly online, limiting its potential audience.
In general, media in Morocco is supervised by several government institutions, such as the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HACA).
Both organizations have authorization processes for the two most common models of broadcasts, commercial and public.
Again, Sala Web Radio TV is neither.
Privately-owned corporate media outlets produce commercial broadcasts, while state-run agencies produce or fund public broadcasts. Sala Web Radio TV is a third model, community broadcast.
These type of broadcasts serve a geographic community. Content usually focuses on popular and relevant issues to a local audience that commercial or mass-media broadcasts often overlook.
“We are on a tough situation because as a community radio station, we don’t fit into any of the already established categories,” Benzalla said. “We’ve been applying to get legal recognition since 2011 and since we are so different we haven’t been accepted or rejected. We are just stuck.”
Benzalla says the station will continue to apply each year in the hopes authorization will eventually be granted.
“Of course, we won’t give up. We are a community radio station. It will happen, Inshallah,” Benzalla said.
While the station’s struggle for authorization continues, Benzalla says being online has allowed them to develop a loyal niche audience.
“People in Sale want to feel represented, that’s why it is so important to have radio stations like ours to talk about issues in our city that other media forgets to mention,” Benzalla said. “We are Sale reflected in radio.”