In Tunisia, the radio is the second most popular media after television. 67% of households own a radio and as many Tunisians follow the news through this media. In addition, 27% of Tunisians listen to the radio via the Internet. Most of them (91%) listen to radio in Arabic and 10% in French. 55% of the population trusts the information they listen to on the radio.
Radio is diversifying - but public stations remain important
Of the 10 radios analysed, 4 belong to the Tunisian National Radio. The others are private radio stations that were created before or after the revolution. Most private radio stations are owned by Tunisian business men, of which some have shares in several radio stations.
This is the case for the businessman Lotfi Abdennadher, shareholder of radio Mosaique FM and Diwan FM. Aziz Miled is another example. When he died on November 7, 2012 his heirs inherited his shares of the radio Jawhara FM as well as the shares he held of radio Sabra FM through a group of shareholders of a venture capital company (SODIC SICAR). However, none of these shareholders are the controlling shareholders or managers of the radio stations, except Lotfi Abdennadher. He is represented by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Diwan FM.
The radio sector during the Ben Ali Regime
Under Ben Ali, there were only 4 national public radio station (National Radio, Radio Tunis International Channel, Radio Youth and Cultural Radio) as well as 5 regional public radio stations (in Monastir, Sfax, Kef, Gafsa and Tataouine) all under the control of the authorities. In addition, five private radio stations existed (Mosaique FM, Jawhara FM, Shems FM, Express FM and Zitouna FM) managed by people close to the regime.
Sakhr El Materi, son in law of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali launched Zitouna FM, a religious radio in 2007. Cyrine Ben Ali, the daughter of Ben Ali, obtained a license for her radio Shems FM in 2010. In addition, Belhassen Trabelsi, brother of Leila Ben Ali (Ben Ali's wife) was one of the shareholders of Mosaique FM, the first private Tunisian radio, created in 2003.
Jawhara FM was also owned by a group of businessmen close to the government, while the licence for the radio Express FM was granted to Murad Gueddiche, son of Mohamed Gueddiche, advisor and personal physician of Ben Ali.
How has the situation changed since the Revolution?
Since 2011, the number of public, national and regional radio stations, has not changed. The post-revolutionary period has, however, been marked by a significant increase in the number of private radio stations which amount to date to 21, but also of community radio stations, of which 10 obtained their licence from the HAICA. These numbers do not include web radios.
The most popular radios vary by region: for example, Mosaique FM is the most listened to radio in the northern region, while the southern regions rather listen to public regional radio stations (like Radio Tataouine and Radio Gafsa). The web presence is also important for some stations, whose websites are among the most visited ones in Tunisia.
The emergence of community radio stations
Community radios are a new phenomenon in Tunisia. Most of them were created after the revolution. They benefit from the support (financial, material, or capacity development) of international actors and the HAICA. 10 community radios that meet the requirements of the specifications of the HAICA obtained a licence (Radio 6, Sawt Al Manajem, Dream FM, Media Libre FM, Houna El Gassrine, Al Jerid FM, K FM, Nefzaoua FM, Radio Campus, Radio Regueb). Community radios have been recognised legally by the Decree Law 2011-116 which defines them as radios that are "specialized, local, non-profit and serving the public interest" (specification of the HAICA).
E. Lamjed (National Broadcasting Cooperation), interview, May 29, 2016