A very « politicised » ownership of TV stations
As the media outlet that generates the highest audience in Tunisia, television evokes particular interests among political groups or personalities, even though the regulatory authority (HAICA) prohibits combining political responsibility and ownership of an audio-visual media. The majority of TV channels analysed for this study (6 out out of 10) have a direct or indirect link with a party or a politician. Nebil Karoui, founder and former CEO of Nessma TV is now part of the party leadership of Nidaa Tounes. Larbi Nasra, founder of Hannibal TV, the first private Tunisian TV channel, has sold his shares before entering politics. He created a political party and ran for the presidential election in 2014.
The TV channel Al Hiwar Ettounsi also has a history closely linked to politics. It was created under the former regime by Tahar Ben Hassine, a former opponent of Ben Ali, who later joined the party NidaaTounes. The TV channel Ettounsiya of Sami Fehri, former partner of a member of Ben Ali clan, evoked the interest of Slim Riahi a politician, businessman and president of the party UPL (Free Patriotic Union). The two TV stations merged, in the midst of this media-politics entanglement, after Tahar Ben Hassine sold his shares to the wife of Sami Fehri.
On the other hand, channels launched by relatives or sympathizers of the Islamists were created after the revolution. Zitouna TV and Zitouna Hidaya TV were launched by Oussama Ben Salem, a member of the Ennahda party, before he sold his shares to comply with the requirements of the HAICA. The case of Janoubiya TV can also be cited, as its current owner, the businessman Mohamed Ayachi Ajroudi, does not hide his political ambitions.
No similar level of political affiliations of owners of private radio stations can be observed, these are rather held by businessmen.
Even though the prohibition to combine a political responsibility and ownership of a media does not apply to print media or online media, there are few media owners who clearly display any party affiliation. The only media with a clear link is Al Jarida, the editor-in-chief works for the Presidency of the Government and the owner for the President of the Republic.
Political affiliations in media coverage
The HAICA has established rules for media coverage during election campaign periods, prohibiting propaganda and political advertising. The authority ensures compliance with these rules and published a report on election coverage in 2014. The report shows that political affiliations are evident for several TV channels.
In the case of the campaign for parliamentary elections, the HAICA observed an obvious policy bias in favour of the Ennahda Movement on Zitouna TV. Al Moutawasset (M Tunisia), Telvza TV, Hannibal TV and Tounesna TV, also presented the parties in an unbalanced way. Other channels and radio stations also proposed an unbalanced content without a clearly identifiable political orientation.
For the second round of the presidential campaign, the HAICA found that Zitouna TV, Al Moutawasset (M Tunisia) and TNN supported former President Moncef Marzouki while Nessma TV and Al Hiwar Ettounsi preferred Beji Caid Essebsi, winner of the elections. The authority equally observed radio stations and concluded that Saraha FM supported the incumbent, while Cap FM, Mosaique FM, Express FM and Jawhara FM were in favour of the current head of state.