Will licensing of private broadcasters diversify news and views?
Despite the pressure on independent newsweeklies, a decision by King Mohamed VI to ease licensing of privately owned radio and television stations has raised hope for more diversity in Moroccos broadcast media. The states High Audiovisual Communication Authority (HACA) is reviewing applications for broadcasting licenses. HACA Chairman Ahmed Ghazali predicted in an interview with Reuters on March 8 that the HACA soon would license some twenty-four radio stations and five television stations.
Although the move will surely increase the number of privately owned stations in Morocco, the more important test is whether the HACA will steer clear of political criteria when ruling on license applications, and whether the government will allow newly licensed stations to present independent reporting and commentary on sensitive issues. Such a development would be a huge step forward for press freedom in Morocco, at a time when outspoken print publications face politically motivated prosecutions and court judgments, and state television provides a dull diet of officially approved news coverage and commentary.