Television is the most popular medium: 98% of households own a TV, 83% of Tunisians use this media to follow the news, while 61 % consider the information broadcasted as trustworthy. TV programs are mainly in Arabic: only 34% of Tunisians also watch TV in French language.
Diversity and Transparency
There are currently two public television channels and 12 private channels - a figure that is constantly changing since the revolution. Since the implementation of the specifications of the audio-visual regulatory authority HAICA, some channels broadcast their programs without license, such as Zitouna TV. In response to political, legal or economic constraints, some have merged or changed their shareholders, others are struggling to survive, or those with an unregulated legal status disseminate via foreign satellites.
Television during the Ben Ali regime
In 1966, ten years after independence, Habib Bourguiba officially launched the first public television channel. In 1994, nearly 30 years later, his successor, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, launched the second national channel (then called Canal 21) in order to address the critical influence of some foreign channels - especially France 2 which broadcasted on the terrestrial channel. The two public channels were renamed Wataniya (National) 1 and 2 in 2011, after the revolution.
In the 2000s, the first private television channels emerged. The first one, Hannibal TV, was launched in 2005 by a businessman affiliated to the Ben Ali clan. In 2007, Nessma TV, receives its authorisation. However the television licenses were issued based on opaque and arbitrary criteria to people close to the regime. The programs of these channels generally avoided political content. The only opposition channel "El Hiwar El Tounsi" was launched from abroad in 2003. In order to access information not controlled by the government, Tunisians had to turn to international channels that broadcasted via satellite.
How has the situation changed since the Revolution?
Since 2011, the TV landscape has diversified. New licenses are issued in order to break the monopoly of the members of the Ben Ali clan. In 2011, INRIC recommended issuing licences to 5 channels. Since 2013, licenses are granted by the HAICA based on clear specifications.
Political leaders seem aware of the immense audience that TV reaches compared to other media media outlets: TV is their main communication channel. New regulations were specifically designed to unbundle the linkages with politicians or parties but TV stations are still often - directly or indirectly - tied to them. Some TV stations close to the Islamists have emerged, while some founders or owners of other stations clearly display their political preferences or ambitions.
PS: The team would like to thank IPSOS for having shared its latest study on television audience that was used to establish the list of the 10 TV channels.
BBC Media Action (2014), After the Revolution: Libyan and Tunisian Media through the people’s eyes
INRIC (2012), Instance Nationale pour la Réforme de l’Information & de la Communication: Rapport Général
National Statistics Institute (2012) Indicateurs et données statistiques TIC
Northwestern University in Qatar (2015), Media Use in the Middle East 2015