Chairman of the Moroccan Viewers' Rights Association, Al-Mostafa Banaali, said that the Moroccan initiative to protect TV viewers' rights, will be expanded to form an Arab NGO network that will address this subject throughout the Arab region.
In an exclusive interview with Arabstoday, Banaali said that the social observation of the content of TV shows is essential in Arab countries, as this content has the biggest influence on the entire media production in the region, particularly for children and women who spend more time viewing TV than men, according to recent research in Morocco.
Arabstoday: What is the significance of establishing an association for viewers' rights in Morocco?
MB: This association was established in 2008, after the government allowed private TV and radio stations to broadcast, but discussions about the association's role started three years before then. We were discussing whether the association should be responsible for all media productions, but in the end we decided that the association should concentrate on TV broadcasting. First as it is a very wide and divergent area to observe, and second for its huge influence on Moroccan families.
Arabstoday: Why did you decide to expand your activity to other Arab countries, and what is your expectations of this expansion?
MB: TV's impact on Arab citizens in general is getting bigger all the time, with daily TV viewing in Arab countries one of the highest in the world. For example, the average time spent watching TV for Arab children is about 21 hours a week, and the TV shows' content has a massive influence on views and opinions, so the social observation of this content should always be there. Our role is to ensure that the Arab viewer is positively interacting with what he/she watches, particularly children and women, who watch TV for longer periods than men, according to recent research carried out in Morocco. Also we wish to utilise Arab TV content in economic development, similar to what has been achieved by Turkish broadcasts on Arab channels, which caused a significant rise in the average number of Arab tourists visiting Turkey.
Arabstoday: How do you assess the content of Moroccan and Arab TV channels?
MB: On the economic and technical sides, the TV broadcasting sector has witnessed a massive development, as huge investments are dedicated to it these days. But on the moral and cultural sides, we have to support channels that offer a good contribution to the interaction between Arab societies, as well as between Arab citizens and different cultures around the world. On the other hand, we should be firm in censoring media which support extremism and backward thinking, which are as dangerous as moral decay.
Satellite broadcasting had made a tremendous change to TV broadcasting history, as the choices are so wide these days for Arab viewers, so they can always compare what they watch on the Arab channels, to what is being broadcast, say, by Western ones. If we make a simple comparison, we will find that the amount of violence is greater on Western channels, particularly in movies and dramas, while in the Arab media, violent images are more frequent in news channels, particularly, al-Jazeera.
Arabstoday: You recently asked for the reopening al-Jazeera's office in Morocco, which you had earlier criticised when you said the channel was "biased" against Morocco. Would you explain this?
MB: Our position towards al-Jazeera is clear. First of all, we always support freedom of speech, so we don't like to make any restrictions on a media institution's activity in Morocco. But at the same time, we have some concerns about the timing of the negotiations to re-opening al-Jazeera's office in Morocco, as al-Jazeera decided to re-negotiate only after the Justice and Development Party (JDP), took over power, and it is well-known that al-Jazeera has always tended to support this party together with the general Islamist movement in Morocco, as well as in other Arab countries.
Our main problem with al-Jazeera, is its bias in favour of those parties that are threatening the geographical unity of our country. That has always been the approach of al-Jazeera in covering the political activity in Morocco. We urge them only to commit to the moral and professional values of the media.
Arabstoday: Finally, what message do you want to send to the Arab people through Arabstoday?
MB: First I want to express my gratitude to Arabstoday for this interview, and I want to assure all Arab citizens interested in watching TV, that our association will always be a reliable partner in protecting viewers' rights and respecting culture when dealing with TV broadcasting content.