> x-posted from Bruce Girard[SMTP:bgirard@PULSAR.ORG.EC]
> MEDIA-BENIN: Tiny West African Nation Throws its
> Airwaves Open
> By Gisele Glele
> COTONOU, Dec 12 (IPS) - Come next year, 19 new radio and TV stations
> will be able to operate in Benin, following a decision to that effect
> by the West African state's media licencing and regulatory body.
> The Higher Audiovisual and Communication Authority (HAAC) last month
> authorised eight commercial radio stations and seven non- commercial
> ones along with one TV station and three satellite-TV channels.
> They still have to wait, though, for a final green light, this time
> from an ad hoc committee set up by the Ministry of Culture and
> Communication. Among other things, that committee has to ensure that
> the frequencies awarded by the HAAC are in line with international
> accords and do not interfere with the frequencies of state services.
> The HAAC's move marked the implementation of a decision to de-
> monopolise the airwaves, taken in 1990 by the National Conference
> placed Benin on the road to multi-party democracy. It was welcomed by
> many Beninois, who had awaited it with impatience.
> ''The freeing up of the audiovisual sector has come late in Benin,''
> says Fernando H., a teacher here. ''They took too long to draw up the
> legal provisions.'' Still, he is happy that Beninois can now benefit
> from a broader range of news. ''I'm not satisfied by national
> television,'' he says. ''There are many things that are hidden from
> Economist Abdoulaye C. feels much the same way. ''The political
> debates on national television are not satisfactory,'' he says.
> ''Economic debates do not even exist. Our television does not educate
> people and it does not have current films.''
> National television exists only for the state, adds Abdoulaye, who
> explains that many Beninois have been turning to foreign channels
> because they have been disappointed by national television.
> But not everyone throughout Benin is likely to see or hear the new
> stations. While he welcomes the fact that there will now be more
> sources of information, Abel Gbetohenomo, a journalist with a private
> periodical, notes that ''some regions are more favoured than others
> with regard to the private audio-visual media'' since about a third
> the new radio stations and all four TV channels will be set up in
> Gbetohenomo also wonders how well the new media will work.
> ''We know what the start of the private print media was like,'' he
> says. ''And when you know that the radio is the medium most widely
> listened to, it would be a good thing to introduce some safeguards,
> with regard to both the quality of the programmes and the
> of the information.''
> The safeguards include paying staff well, he suggests.
> Under the terms of their licences, the new commercial radio and TV
> stations are required to employ qualified journalists and
> communicators, and some have already started preparing for this. The
> Africa Obata Centre, which is setting up a community radio, has sent
> its announcers for a crash course at the Ouagadougou International
> Centre for Studes in Rural Radio (CIERRO) in Burkina Faso.
> However, some of the media houses are dissatisfied by the way
> frequencies were allocated. ''It's bad to say there are not many
> frequencies while, at the same time, two frequencies are granted to
> the same person,'' says Thomas M. of the Africa Obata Centre.
> ''People said the de-monopolisation would be something for the rich
> and that is what we are seeing,'' he adds in a reference to an
> extremely wealthy businessman who received two frequencies.
> Others radio owners, including the founder of Aheme F.M., another
> community radio, are unhappy that they have been required to take out
> subscriptions to the state-owned Benin News Agency (ABP), which
> distributes national and international news in the West African
> ''The amount set by the agency is exhorbitant and, moreover, a radio
> like ours does not necessarily need international news,'' he says.
> Some consumers support the concerns of the new broadcasters, arguing
> that the profitability of their operations might be impaired. ''Since
> Beninois are not accustomed to paying to follow programmes, I am
> afraid that the law authorises the creation of the media, on one
> but on the other it creates material and financial difficulties for
> these media,'' says businesswoman Martine H.
> Some of the stations had done test runs on Benin's National Day,
> August 1, and this had aroused much enthusiasm here.
> Some people had vowed to march on the HAAC if the stations were not
> authorised. Other commented that even if the private media were to
> disappear one day, the mere fact that they had existed or that it had
> been announced that they would start operating would have served to
> improve the public media. (fin/ips/gg/nrn/97)
> Bruce Girard Agencia Informativa Pulsar
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