The future of Yemeni visual-audio media [Archives:2007/1045/Viewpoint]

April 26 2007

Finally, there has been a change in the TV and the Broadcasting Corporation's management. At least, a new vision would be allowed to manifest itself in this very important sector. With more than 60% of Yemenis without access to print media and even more than that without any knowledge or access to online media, TV and Radio take up first place in terms of outreach and influence.

The level of bureaucracy at that sector is astonishing and many talented hardworking people were put down and diminished because of resistance to change. Some were pushed out and started pursuing their careers in the private sector and some gave in the pressure and moved with the flow.

Today, new plans are being discussed and the management says that they want to ensure adequate planning for the various activities and programs and to avoid routine boring programs.

Many Yemenis do not watch Yemeni satellite channel or listen to Yemeni broadcast if they are given the choice. The BBC had a multi-hundred thousand dollar project targeting this particular sector in 2006. The aim of this project was to qualify the people working in Yemeni Radio and TV towards public issues and train them to be more professional and impartial in their reporting. A lot of focus was about the election coverage which took place in September 2006, but generally as experts from BBC told me it was about professionalism.

To what extent did this training and others penetrate the rigid old fashioned system, I don't know. But I hope that there will be a significant change. More importantly is the dire need for a change in the TV and Broadcasting Corporation law, which gives the government the privilege of being the sole owner of such media. There is a monopoly in this sector as no private TV or broadcasting projects are allowed to exist. Even the idea of community-based broadcasting is not acceptable to the people in charge of licensing.

The journey is long and we still have many battles to fight in order to ensure freedom of press in Yemen. However, the change in management of this sector and the attitude visible in their meetings seem encouraging. Despite it is the first good step, there are many miles to go before we sleep.