Morocco reschedules launch of first Amazigh TV channel

04 January 2010

Long-running efforts to bring Moroccans television programmes in Tachelhit, Tarifit and Tamazight are once again hitting obstacles.

Morocco's Amazigh community will have to wait a little longer for the launch of their own television channel, which was originally scheduled to debut on December 30th.

Channel director Mohammed Mamad told the press last week that the new station would begin broadcasting this Wednesday, and called the earlier target date at the year's end an "inappropriate time" to hit the airwaves.

Morocco announced in January 2008 that it would finance an Amazigh channel. A 2006 attempt to create a similar station, spearheaded by IRCAM and the SNRT, never came to fruition due to financial difficulties.

The head of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), Ahmed Boukous, said the channel would not miss its new January 6th start date. IRCAM shares production and training responsibilities for the channel with the National Radio and Television Company (SNRT).

"Everything possible has now been done to ensure that the channel will be launched on schedule. There is no need for concern," Boukous said.

He chalked up the delay to "political issues" but insisted the situation will be resolved.

"We discussed all aspects of the matter from the political perspective at the beginning," said Boukous. "The prime minister's office was instructed by the king to set the wheels in motion. Then the money to finance it had to be found."

Members of the millions-strong Amazigh community are concerned the channel will never get off the ground.

"The repeated delays to this project indicate a lack of genuine political will," said Jamal Hamoudou, a bank clerk.

He feels the Amazigh community in Morocco has been marginalised by their lack of a television channel.

For this latest effort, the government is providing the SNRT with a four-year budget of 500 million dirhams, drawing from the Fund for the Promotion of the Moroccan Audiovisual Medium.

The channel will aim to encourage the use of Amazigh dialects Tachelhit, Tarifit and Tamazight by presenting social affairs, cultural and sport programmes, as well as talk shows. The new channel will also feature interviews and debates with prominent members of the Amazigh community.

Amazigh leaders have long sought a channel for their community, arguing that programming on mainstream channels 2M and TVM falls short of expectations and does not comply with broadcast specifications.

Fatna Lkhail, an MP, told Magharebia that the most important thing is to create a high-quality product "that will cater to the needs of millions of Amazighs". She said a launch date need not be set in stone, because the project already has government and community support.

She said the delays to the launch were for entirely logical and objective reasons, and expressed optimism that the channel would succeed.

"Half of the nation is waiting for the project to take shape," she said.

By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat