Despite the legal obligation to disclose certain information about media outlets and companies (see regulations), there is only selective transparency. The information about the editor-in-chief and CEO are often available, most of the names of the owners can be found in the Registry of Commerce – their shares however not always. Yet, financial information is rarely made public, including for public media. Few reported their financial figures or submitted their balance sheets.
The absence of financial information is not only a problem in the media sector. According to statistics from the Registry of Commerce, only about 20% of companies submit their balance sheets.
Willingness to be transparent
Most media leaders responded positively to a meeting request with the project team "Media Ownership Monitor" to share information about their media. The return rate of the completed questionnaire is however much lower. Often not all requested information was provided, especially financial information was rarely shared. Some media could not be reached or did not want to follow up. Only two media (Assarih and Sabra FM) openly said that they did not wish to share information to enhance transparency.
The print sector
All the 10 surveyed newspapers publish on their own initiative the name of the editor-in-chief in the paper. Some of them also publish the name of the CEO. Akhbar Medias (Akhbar al Joumhouria), Dar Assabah (Assabah and Le Temps), Dar Tunis Hebdo and the SNIPE (La Presse and Essahafa) either shared financial information and the names of the shareholders, or this data was available on the Registry of Commerce. It should be noted that the SNIPE is public and Dar Assabah is owned (79%) by the State since its confiscation.
Information about the owners is available on the Registry of Commerce for Al Bayane (UTICA), Dar Al Moussawar and Dar Anwar (Al Chourouk and Le Quotidien). Only the identity sheet and old documents are available for Dar Irada, providing little information about the structure of the company. The publishing house refused to share any information.
The law requires newspapers to publish their circulation figures, but none of them do so. One media shared the financial information with the team of "Media Ownership Monitor" pointing out however that the publication of this data would be harmful to the business of the newspaper.
Despite several attempts, some officials of television stations have still not responded to our requests for information on the structure of their company. As television is the media that is most present in the media itself, the identity of the owners of the main TV channels is often available, The names are either published by other media or published by the owners themselves. Political affiliations of the founders or owners of TV channels are also more or less publicly known, discussed in the media or provided as grounds for refusal of a license by the HAICA.
Much information is available on the Registry of Commerce or in the publications of the Official Journal of the Tunisian Republic (JORT). Nessma TV and Attassia returned the completed questionnaire, yet without providing financial information.
The HAICA communicated a list of audio-visual media who obtained their license to the project team. The list includes the names of managers. However, the HAICA did not provide information on the identity of shareholders and their financial assets, stating however that this information will be made public soon. Moreover, the list held by HAICA is not necessarily updated (including all changes in the structure of media companies), despite the legal obligation of media to inform the regulatory authority.
The Presidency of the Government provided some general financial information on both public televisions (Wataniya 1 and 2). The managers of the two TV channels were not able to provide detailed information on the functioning of the establishment of the Tunisian television.
The data provided by HAICA and the Presidency of the Government on the National Radio, private and community radio stations is of the same kind than the date provided on television. The National Radio also responded to the questionnaire.
Much information about the ownership structure of private radio stations could obtained through the publications on the Registry of Commerce or the JORT.
The radio Mosaique FM distinguishes itself from the other radio stations by its willingness to be transparent, in rapidly providing most of the requested information. IFM also responded to the questionnaire, providing the names of the shareholders and their shares. Diwan FM provided the names without their shares.
Information about the owners is available on the Registry of Commerce for all pure player online media. Most online media also shared this information with the research team.
The online media Business News publishes the names of the principal shareholders and its structure actively on its website. Several media (Al Jarida Babnet, Mosaique FM) either shared their Google Analytics or released overall figures of their audiences (Al Chourouk, Jomhouria, Tunigate).