Indicators of Risks to Media Pluralism

Explanation

Media Audience Concentration

Given the lack of reliable audience data, this indicator could not be calculated. Yet audience data is essential for assessing media concentration and ensuring media diversity. Therefore, in accordance with the MOM methodology, the risk of audience concentration is assessed as "high".

Media Ownership Concentration

There is no comprehensive or reliable data on the media market in Tunisia and only few media outlets provided information on their revenue. Therefore, this indicator cannot be calculated. However, it should be noted that most media rely  on different funding sources.

 

LowMediumHigh
1.2Ownership concentration in television (horizontal): This indicator aims to assess the concentration of ownership within the TV media sector. 
  If within one country the major 4 owners (Top4) have a market share below 25%.  If within one country the major 4 owners (Top4) have a market share between 25% and 49%.  If within one country the major 4 owners (Top4) have a market share above 50%. 

The same questions apply to the radio, print and online sector.

 

 

Regulatory Safeguards: Media Ownership Concentration

Horizontal Concentration (TV, radio, print, internet access providers)

IndicatorDescriptionYesNoMDNA
3.1 Does the media legislation contain specific thresholds or limits, based on objective criteria (e.g. number of licenses, audience share, circulation, distribution of share capital or voting rights, turnover/revenue) to prevent a high level of horizontal concentration of ownership and/or control in this sector? This question aims to assess the existence of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific) against a high horizontal concentration of ownership and/or control in the specific sector.    X    
3.2 Is there an administrative authority or judicial body actively monitoring compliance with the thresholds in the audiovisual sector and/or hearing complaints? (e.g. media and/or competition authority)? This variable aims to assess if the law/regulation provides a due monitoring and sanctioning system for the regulation on audiovisual media concentration.    X      
3.3 Does the law grant this body sanctioning/enforcement powers in order to impose proportionate remedies (behavioural and/or structural) in case of non-respect of the thresholds?

This variable aims at assessing if the law is providing a due system of sanctions to sector-specific regulation, such as: refusal of additional licences; blocking of merger or acquisition; obligation to allocate windows for third party programming; obligation to give up licences/ activities in other media sectors; divesture. 

   X    
3.4 Are these sanctioning/enforcement powers effectively used? This indicator aims to assess the effective implementation of sector-specific remedies against a high horizontal concentration of ownership and/or control in the television media.     X  

The same answers apply to the question of media mergers. 

Regulation Horizontal Concentration

Cross-Media Ownership Concentration

Given the lack of reliable audience data, this indicator can not be calculated. However, the qualitative research shows that there is a low cross-media ownership. The press, radio and television sector are held by different owners. The most visited online media are however, mainly the online version of or have a direct link with traditional media (radio, print, TV). This is therefore a form of cross-media ownership concentration. Indirectly, this is also the case for Business News, a pure player, in part owned by the company Maghreb Media which publishes newspapers such as the weekly Réalités.

The only player with a strong cross-media ownership is the Tunisian government, which owns a publishing house, the national television and radio institutions and media confiscated in all sectors. If these media will be sold or not, will determine the future role of the state in the management of some Tunisian media as well as diversity or concentration of the sector.

Finally, there are cases of vertical concentration, such as Nessma TV which recently launched its own mobile network operator, Nessma Mobile, in cooperation with Ooredoo and Karoui & Karoui (advertising agency) or the Cooperative “Distribution”, a print distribution company owned by several publishing houses.

Leaders (2016), Lancement de Nessma Mobile

Regulatory Safeguards: Cross-media Ownership Concentration

Tunisian law does not recognize cross-media ownership as a specific legal status. Several rules on cross-media ownership can however be deferred from other laws.

Cross-media ownership concentration could be based on two criteria: on the number of licenses or on shares in a media company.

·       Number of licenses: one person (natural or legal) can only obtain one licence for a TV channel and one for a radio station at the same time. This same person may also have two newspapers of the same kind (see indicator 3). The person may also hold online media (press, radio or television) as long as there is no explicit prohibition. The combination of all these licenses is possible under Tunisian law.

·       Ownership (shares) of a media: one person may be a shareholder or partner in several media companies. In the audio-visual sector, if a person already holds shares of another media, greater than or equal to 26% in a limited liability company or greater than or equal to 34% in S.A. cooperation, he may not own more than 5% shares of a company which manages a radio or television station. In the print sector, a person cannot hold or control several companies whose joint publication of general political periodicals exceeds 30% of the total circulation of this category of periodicals. Shares in the audio-visual and the print sector can be held at the same time, as long as the specific above mentioned thresholds are respected.

The regulatory authorities that control concentration for each type of media are also competent in the case of cross-media concentration, namely the HAICA, the Ministry of Trade and the Competition Council. The same prerogatives are applicable in cases of cross-media ownership. The regulations in force in the media sector, on the financial sector as well as on competition allow in theory to prevent any sort of concentration.

The regulation and competition authorities never had to deal with a cross-media ownership concentration issue. There is no case law yet.

IndicatorDescriptionYesNoMDNA
5.1Does the media legislation contain specific thresholds or limits, based on objective criteria (e.g. number of licenses, audience share, circulation, distribution of share capital or voting rights, turnover/revenue) to prevent a high degree of cross-ownership between the different media ?This question aims to assess the existence of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific) against a  high degree of cross-ownership in different media sectors.   X    
5.2Is there an administrative authority or judicial body actively monitoring compliance with the thresholds in the audiovisual sector and/or hearing complaints? (e.g. media and/or competition authority)?This variable aims to assess if the law/regulation provides a due monitoring and sanctioning system for the regulation on cross-media concentration.   X      
5.3Does the law grant this body sanctioning/enforcement powers in order to impose proportionate remedies (behavioural and/or structural) in case of non-respect of the thresholds?

This variable aims at assessing if the law is providing a due system of sanctions to cross-media concentration, such as: refusal of additional licences; blocking of merger or acquisition; obligation to allocate windows for third party programming; obligation to give up licences/ activities in other media sectors; divesture. 

   X    
5.4Are these sanctioning/enforcement powers effectively used?This indicator aims to assess the effective implementation of the regulation.    X  

The same answers apply to the questions on preventing cross-media ownership concentration through merger regulation. 

Ownership Transparency

Most information about the media owners of the media outlets studied are not directly accessible to the public. The website Business News stands out from this opacity in providing the names of the principal shareholders (individuals or companies) that own the company "Digital Media Company", on their website.

Most information on media owners is however available on the commercial register (for a fee) or published in the legal notices of the Official Journal of the Republic of Tunisia (JORT). The announcements since 2006 are directly accessible on the site infojort.com. Some changes to the management or the distribution of shares, however, are not made public; either because of a malfunction of the District Court that registers these amendments or as a lack of compliance with the legal requirements by the media owners themselves.

The political affiliations of media owners or of their editorial line are not clearly published, however some owners or media leaders do not hide their orientation or political ambitions. In the audiovisual sector, they are forced by the regulator (HAICA) to respect the ban to combine responsibilities in a political party with the ownership of a media. This is particularly the example of Zitouna TV, whose founder affiliated with Ennahda has sold his shares or with Nebil Karoui who resigned as CEO of Nessma TV after joining a decision-making body of the party Nidaa Tounes. 

LowMediumHigh
6.1Data on media owners as well as their political affiliations is publicly available (Active Transparency) (>75% of sample) Data of media owners and their political affiliations are disclosed based on investigations of journalists and media activists or upon request (Passive Transparency /Data Publicly Available) (>50% of sample) Data on political affiliation of media owners are not easily accessible by the public and investigative journalists or activists are not successful in disclosing these data (Data Unavailable / Active Disguise) (<50%  of sample)

Regulatory Safeguards: Ownership Transparency

All changes concerning the social capital, shareholders, status or structure of the company managing the media outlet must be published in the Official journal (JORT) and in the Registry of Commerce. The information published should be accessible to the public. These changes also need to be communicated to the concerned regulatory authority. The media owned by SA corporations are required to publish summaries of their annual financial statements in the newspapers.  They are also required to submit two copies of their financial statements and the list of shareholders to the Registry of Commerce. After closing the financial year, all accounting data must be reported to the tax authorities.

Non-respect of the obligation to publish these changes and the failure to communicate them to the competent authorities are liable to various sanctions by the concerned authority. The penalties differ depending on the case (nullifying the changes, the changes are not enforceable towards a third party, fines).

In reality, even the public authorities concerned (eg the Registry of Commerce) find it difficult to gather all information to identify the owner of each media in Tunisia.  The penalties foreseen by law for non-compliance with the disclosure requirements lack effectiveness.

A judge of the Registry of Commerce may request companies to disclose their proceedings or any other information that need to be disclosed by law, otherwise punishable by a fine of five thousand dinars and up to ten thousand dinars in case of recurrence.

A breach of informing the Registry of Commerce can be proven by several authorities including: the prosecutor, District Court, officers of the National Police and the National Guard, Inspectors and authorized public officers of the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Finance and public officers authorized by specific legislation.

The information that should be made public by law would allow the public to know who actually owns a media, but in reality this information is, for several media, not always complete or updated.

Furthermore, any person with a legitimate reason, can request an order from the judge of the Registry of Commerce to access the information held by the courts. The public administration (INNORPI) responsible for the Registry of Commerce has difficulties in keeping the information up to date, as the courts are not effective in transferring the information.

The requirement for full access to information requires more human and logistical resources and the development of a clear regulatory framework determining the terms of cooperation between the various authorities involved in the collection of information about media companies. 

IndicatorDescriptionYesNoMDNA
7.1 Does national (media, company, tax...) law contain transparency and disclosure provisions obliging media companies to publish their ownership structures on their website or in records/documents that are accessible to the public? The aim of the question is to check regulatory safeguard for transparency towards the citizens, the users and the public in general.  X   
7.2 Does national (media, company, tax...) law contain transparency and disclosure provisions obliging media companies to report (changes in) ownership structures to public authorities (such as the media authority)? The aim of the question is to check regulatory safeguard for accountability and transparency towards public authorities.  X   
7.3 Is there an obligation by national law to disclose relevant information after every change in ownership structure? This question aims at assessing if the law provides rules on the public availability of accurate and up-to-date data on media ownership. This is a condition for an effective transparency.    X  
7.4 Are there any sanctions in case of non-respect of disclosure obligations? This question aims at assessing if the law on media ownership transparency can be enforced through the application of sanctions.        X    
7.5 Do the obligations ensure that the public knows which legal or natural person effectively owns or controls the media company? This question aim at assessing the effectiveness of the laws that deal with media ownership transparency and if they succeed in disclosing the real owners of the media outlets.    

Medium:


some owners are still unknown

    

(Political) Control Over Media Outlets and Distribution Networks

Political affiliations:

As the media outlet that generates the highest audience in Tunisia, television evokes particular interests among political groups or personalities, even though the regulatory body (HAICA) prohibits combining political responsibility and ownership of audio-visual media. The majority (6 of 10) of the analysed TV stations have a direct or indirect link with a party or a politician. (See Political affiliations

The state has two public TV stations placed under the supervision of the Presidency of the Government. It also manages the production company Cactus Prod. of Sami Fehri, linked to Al Hiwar Ettounsi. The shares that Belhassen Trabelsi (brother of Ben Ali) held in the company were confiscated. The state also has shares in the capital of Hannibal TV of which 10% were confiscated.  

Concerning the radio stations, the state has a wide network of national and regional radio stations. It also owns 70% of shares in the capital of Shems FM,a  radio founded by the daughter of Ben Ali and 13% of Mosaique FM, shares previously held by Belhassen Trabelsi. The radio stations analysed for this study have, mostly, no clear partisan or political affiliation, as they are mainly owned by the state (public radio and confiscated media) or businessmen or other industry groups. Although it has to be noted, that the private radio stations launched before the revolution were held by members of the Ben Ali clan or businessmen close to the government.

Regarding the newspapers analysed for this study no political affiliations are evident. Yet, partisan press is permitted and exists, such as Al Fajr, which is the newspaper of the Ennahda party. In addition, two major publishing houses are under the control of the State, the SNIPE that is public and Dar Assabah of which 79% are confiscated. 

The owner of the website Al Jarida is adviser to the President of the Republic and the editor-in-chief is press officer for the Presidency of the Government.

Distribution and broadcasting networks

The National Broadcasting Office (ONT), a public institution under the Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, is the only institution that manages the broadcasting of television and radio. Some TV stations such Zitouna TV that have no license, broadcast with their own means, often from abroad via satellite. In 2015, the broadcast of Hannibal TV was temporarily halted with the use of public force, an act condemned by the HAICA who sees it as a dangerous precedent.

Private transmitters are permitted for community radio stations. Currently all community radios except KFM broadcast with their own means. However all radios must receive a frequency from the National Frequency Agency. There are, however, also stations that only broadcast on the web and therefore do not need to obtain a frequency. 

In the print sector, the company Daâdaâ, a private company owned by Messaoud Daâdaâ, held the distribution monopoly in Grand Tunis until 12 May 2015. In order to break the monopoly, which Daâdaâ abused in the past by favouring certain newspapers compared to others, several publishing houses and others (Maghreb Papier, SNIPE, Maghreb Media Réalités, Dar Akhar Khabar, UGTT, UTICA, Dar AI Binaa, Dar El Fajr, UTAP, Dar Assabah) created a new company "distribution cooperative".  To protest against this new company, Daâdaâ boycotted the distribution of several newspapers. According to several newspapers, the “distribution cooperative” has no more distribution problem since this incident. Dar Anwar and Dar Irada continue to work with Daâdaâ. SOTUPRESSE is the company specializing in the distribution of the foreign press in Tunisia. They refused the distribution of certain newspapers several times for moral reasons, even after the revolution (i.e. Charlie Hebdo considered to disrespect values of Islam). Most newspaper companies have their own means of distribution in the regions.

With regards to the Internet network, the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) participated in the internet censorship under Ben Ali. The current agency Attounissia (ex - ATI) does not censor websites anymore.

No political affiliations of the distribution networks are evident, neither of the public nor the private networks. Discriminatory acts were committed in the past and may still occur. However there is no monopoly for the distribution of the written press and in reality, despite the monopoly of the ONT, alternatives for broadcasting radio and television stations are used.

LowMediumHigh
POLITICATION OF MEDIA OUTLETS    
8.1What is the share of TV media owned by politically affiliated entities? 
  The media having <30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation. The media having <50% - >30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.  The media having >50% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.
8.2What is the share of Radio channels owned by politically affiliated entities?
  The media having <30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation. The media having <50%>30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.  The media having >50% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.
8.3 What is the share of Newspapers owned by politically affiliated entities?
  The media having <30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation. The media having <50%>30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.  The media having >50% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.
POLITICATION OF MEDIA DISTRIBUTION NETWORKS
8.4 How would you assess the conduct of the leading distribution networks for print media? 
  Leading distribution networks are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions. At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actions All of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions
8.5 How would you assess the conduct of the leading radio distribution networks? 
  Leading distribution networks are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions. At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actions All of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions
8.6 How would you assess the conduct of the leading television distribution networks? 
 Leading distribution networks are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions.At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actionsAll of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions

Kapitalis (2015), Distribution des journaux: Qui mettra fin au monopole de Messaoud Daadaa?
Inkyfada (2015), Charlie Hebdo en Tunisie : Absent des kiosques mais présent dans les débats
Babnet (2012),La Sotupresse nie avoir empêché la distribution de deux revues françaises en Tunisie

(Political) Control Over Media Funding

During the Ben Ali regime, the Tunisian External Communication Agency (ATCE) held the monopoly over the distribution of public advertising, which it used as a political and a propaganda tool. The distribution of public advertising thus encouraged allegiance to the government of some media while those that were more critical or less involved were penalised. Since the revolution, there is no longer an agency responsible for the distribution of official advertising and no body controls or knows the numbers. The possible creation of a new agency to address the vacuum left by the ATCE is under discussion. The Federation of Newspaper Directors and the Union of Journalists, among others, also support the idea of a Press Council which would include, among its objectives, to issue an opinion (binding or not) on the criteria for the distribution of public advertising. Today, the distribution of public advertising is based on non-existent and unknown rules and done independently by each department or public institutions. It should also be noted, that several media broadcast advertising to support cultural or educational projects or awareness campaigns free of charge (eg certain spots of the Ministry of Education).

Although no figures to determine accurately the part of public advertising of the funding of television channels and radio stations exist, the majority of managers of the television and radio stations analysed confirmed that this share is minimal or non-existent for most media. Public companies act as private enterprises with independent communication strategies.

However, public funding is important for the print sector. This funding includes not only public advertising, but especially also subscriptions and buying newspapers by public institutions. The cancellation of public subscription after the revolution brought an important financial loss for several newspapers. Currently, Circular No. 2016-8 of 8 April 2016 on the organization of the purchase of newspapers and periodicals by public structures intends to support the print sector, an industry that is experiencing an increasing financial crisis, by increasing purchase quotas for newspapers. Based on figures provided by several publishing houses (overall figures do not exist) and taking into account the importance of purchases and subscription for the financing of the print sector, the risk of political control over financing of the print sector is considered high for most newspapers. Few exceptions exist, where the sale numbers and the share of private advertising are important.

 LowMediumHigh
9.1 Is the state advertising distributed to media proportionately to their audience share? 
  State advertising is distributed to the media relatively proportionately to the audience shares of media     State advertising is distributed disproportionately (in terms of audience share) to the media State advertising is  distributed exclusively to few media outlets, which do not cover all major media outlets in the country
9.2 How would you assess the rules of distribution of state advertising?    
  State advertising is distributed to media outlets based on transparent rules. State advertising is distributed to media outlets based on a set of rules but it is unclear whether they are transparent. There are no rules regarding distribution of state advertising to media outlets or these
IMPORTANCE OF STATE ADVERTISING    
9.3What is the share of state advertising as part of the overall TV advertising market?    
  Share of state advertising is <5% of the overall market Share of state advertising is 5%-10% of the overall market Share of state advertising is > 10% of the overall market
9.4What is the share of state advertising as part of the overall Radio advertising market?    
 Share of state advertising is <5% of the overall marketShare of state advertising is 5%-10% of the overall marketShare of state advertising is > 10% of the overall market
9.5What is the share of state advertising as part of the overall Print advertising market?    
 Share of state advertising is <5% of the overall marketShare of state advertising is 5%-10% of the overall marketShare of state advertising is > 10% of the overall market

(Political) Control Over News Agencies

In Tunisia, there exists effectively only one Tunisian News Agency, the official agency Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP), created in 1961. The TAP is a public company that served as a propaganda instrument during the Ben Ali regime. It has the status of a S.A. corporation. 98% of the shares are owned by the state, few journalists hold the others. 85% of its budget comes from the state and its CEO is appointed by the Presidency of the Government in consultation with key stakeholders in the field. Its Board of Directors consists of representatives of different ministries, of the Presidency, other public media institutions (public television, public radio and SNIPE) and shareholders journalists. The TAP is itself a shareholder, with shares in the SNIPE.

Since 2011, "Binaa News" presents itself as the first private news agency founded in Tunisia after the revolution. However, no major media outlet works with this agency. The TAP has thus, in practice, a monopoly in the Tunisian press agency industry, but there are no figures to estimate the market share of news agencies.

There are several major international news agencies working in Tunisia: Agence France Presse (AFP), Reuters, Associated Press or the Turkish news agency Anadolu. TAP has cooperation agreement with Reuters.

A good part of the Tunisian media works directly or indirectly with the TAP, even if many of them are not subscribed, as they prefer other sources of information or tap into other international news agencies. The TAP therefore dominates the market, in the absence of other competing Tunisian agencies. Yet, this does not represent a real risk to the control of public opinion, as the media are no longer forced to work with this agency, even though it remains a source of official information. However, this has not necessarily diversified the general information available.

LowMediumHigh
10.1What is the market share of the leading news agency?    
  No news agency dominates the market (occupy >30% of the market of news agencies).  One news agency has <50% ?30% share of the market of news agencies.  The leading news agency has ?50% market share.
10.2How would you evaluate the political affiliation and/or dependence of the largest news agency?    
  None of the largest news agencies is dependent on political groupings in terms of ownership, affiliation of key personnel or editorial policy. At least one of the largest news agencies is dependent on political groupings in terms of ownership, affiliation of key personnel or editorial policy. Most or all of the largest news agencies is dependent on political groupings in terms of ownership, affiliation of key personnel or editorial policy.
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    Alkhatt
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    Reporters without borders
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