Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Algeria criticizes TV stations for Ramadan ads and immoral programming


Algerian Officials Criticize Television Stations Over Ramadan Content

Officials in Algeria are chiding television stations over the content choices they’ve made since the start of Ramadan last week, injecting religion into broader discussions about how the country regulates content and advertising in media. Their criticisms come amid broader struggles facing journalists and broadcasters, where television stations and newspapers have historically relied heavily on advertising from the government and large state-aligned enterprises in the oil-rich nation.

Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Lagab accused networks of not respecting ethical and professional lines, calling their programmatic choices “out of keeping with the social traditions of our society and especially the sacredness of the month of Ramadan.” Lagab, a former journalism school professor, preemptively rebuffed accusations of censorship, arguing that his ministry’s push didn’t run counter to Algeria’s constitutional press freedom guarantees.

The minister criticized stations for dedicating excessive airtime to advertising, so much so that it rivaled the run time of certain shows. “If we put advertising (and programs) side by side, we would conclude they last longer than the soap operas broadcast,” Lagab said.

Algeria’s Authority of Audiovisual Regulations has also called on national television stations to rein in advertising and respect families and viewers during Ramadan, a holy month observed throughout the Muslim-majority country and broader region.

The government’s criticisms are unlikely to escalate into punishments like sanctions or fines, as most television channels are politically aligned with the government. Private stations have ramped up advertising to unprecedented levels in anticipation of new regulations on advertising in media.

Algeria’s largest television stations are a mixture of publicly and privately owned. Networks including the private Echourouk, private El Bilad, and the state-owned ENTV broadcast news and other programming, including soap operas. In prior years, viewers have grown accustomed to special Ramadan-specific programs during that period.

While some private channels have begun platforming opposition parties recently, few broadcast pointed criticisms of the government. Those that do have in recent years been penalized. Journalist Ihsane El Kadi’s media company was shuttered, and he was sentenced to prison for “threatening state security” in April 2023.

Overall, the criticisms from Algerian officials highlight the challenges facing television stations during Ramadan and the broader issues of content regulation and advertising in the country. As the government prepares new regulations on advertising in media, stations are facing financial strain and increased scrutiny over their programming choices. It remains to be seen how television stations will respond to these criticisms and whether any changes will be made to align with the government’s expectations during this holy month.

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