An Amazigh-language TV channel first proposed three years ago finally hit Moroccan airwaves on January 6th, satisfying a long-awaited demand by a significant percentage of the country’s citizens.
During the first phase of broadcast operations, set to run until March, programmes in Amazigh dialects Tachelhit, Tarifit and Tamazight will air for six hours each day during the week and ten hours on the week-ends.
The Tamazight channel features “discussions of politics, economics, sport and religion, alongside evening entertainment programmes aimed at children and young people,” station manager Mohamed Mamad said last Wednesday at a Rabat press conference held to announce the long-awaited launch.
The array of broadcast offerings “will reflect Moroccan values of openness, tolerance and modernity”, Mamad added.
Speaking at the same press conference, Communications Minister Khalid Naciri said the new channel would be a media outlet for “openness, tolerance, modernity and development”.
“Tamazight will bring huge added value, because it will play a part in promoting the Amazigh culture and language, a major pillar of Moroccan identity,” he noted.
For Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) director Ahmed Boukous, the project launch was an “historic event” signalling a “new process in state policy in the field of information”.
“This new channel belongs to all Moroccans, without exception,” added the IRCAM chief, whose organisation shares production and training responsibilities for the channel with the National Radio and Television Company (SNRT).
Abdellah Bouchetart, a journalist for the Tamazight channel, said the new arrival meets the “social and cultural needs of Moroccan society, which is characterised by its cultural diversity”.
While many ordinary Amazigh citizens hailed the launch of the channel, which had been postponedseveral times by legal, organisational and financial issues, others felt the pilot schedule did go far enough to satisfy the needs of a large community. Some 28% of Moroccans speak Berber dialects Tarifit, Tamazight or Tachelhit, according to the most recent census.
“The channel is a necessity and has nothing to do with [ethnic] chauvinism; rather, it has to do with the need to raise the profile of a culture that has until now received little media attention,” said economics student Samira Benchehboune.
“The simple presence of Amazigh in public [television] programming still falls short of our aspirations,” she added. “Even the treatment of the reduced number of programmes to be shown is less than we might have hoped for. We’re expecting Tamazight to put out programmes that cover Amazighs of all walks of life.”
“Tamazight will strengthen our national identity, and will allow many Moroccans living in remote regions to feel that they’re part of a rich and diverse Morocco,” said bank clerk Hassan Agourram.
“I have family members who only speak Amazigh and can’t understand Arabic,” he added. “They can’t follow the programmes on the Moroccan channels. From now on, Tamazight will change their lives and their vision.”
By Siham Ali for Magharebia