A Changing Media Landscape
The Tunisian media, which was closely monitored and used by the dictatorship for propaganda purposes, has undergone profound changes since the revolution and the departure of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Today, the media sector plays an important role in the democratic transition process. The media landscape has become increasingly diversified and legislation and regulatory mechanisms have changed significantly, despite some shortcomings in their implementation.
During the Ben Ali regime, the choice of media, especially in the audio-visual sector was extremely limited. The number of radio and television stations has however increased significantly since 2011. The print sector, despite a post-revolution boom, has suffered from a structural crisis that led to a significant drop in the number of publications, offset by an increase in the number of online media. Television remains the preferred media among Tunisians, before radio, internet and print outlets.
Media ownership and concentration
Since the 90s, the Ben Ali regime tried to diversify the media sector, especially to reduce the influence of foreign media that was critical of the regime. People close or affiliated to the regime founded or invested in the print and audio-visual sector. After the revolution, many of these media were confiscated. This means that until today, many media outlets are de facto under state supervision, in addition to public media institutions.
The ownership structures vary according to the different media sector.
As the media with the greatest audience, TV channels are of political interest to some of their owners, explaining in part why some were refused a broadcasting licence. Most print publishing houses are family businesses and are linked to the family interests. Most radio stations are held by a large number of shareholders, mostly Tunisian businessmen. Some of them own shares in different radio stations, which increases their influence on public opinion. Public radio stations remain important and community radios are gaining importance. Despite an increase in websites following the democratization of access to internet, the most important online news sites are the online versions of traditional media, in particular websites of private radio stations.
This research has found no cross-media ownership concentration.