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Women and Radio in the Maghreb

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  • Situation of the representation of women on Maghreb radio programs.

    Radio still enjoys a significant place for the listeners of the four countries of the French speaking Maghreb: Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. Since the 90s the region has seen the transformation of State media towards public and private media. In Algeria, there are around 20 million listeners. Requests for licences for private radio stations have multiplied in Morocco and Tunisia. In Mauritania a process to liberalise the sector is underway. Recently, the Internet has changed the radio landscape and several Internet radios have been set up. However, this increase in the number of radios has not been accompanied by the inclusion of a gender perspective in radio content.

    The creation of radio was not simultaneous across the four countries. Radio Morocco was the pioneer of the Maghreb in 1928. In 1938 Tunisian Radio was officially created. Radio Algeria was created in 1962, six years after the appearance of Voix de l’Algerie (Voice of Algeria) launched from abroad. Radio Mauritania started broadcasting officially in 1959. The growth of radio in the Maghreb draws its roots from the fight for independence and bearing the dream of Arab unity. Development projects have been linked with the radio as a means of spreading information on social subjects.
    Nevertheless, the role of the radio in improving the condition of women has been almost non-existent. Since its beginning, radio has targeted women as mothers and housewives. Today their representation remains a stereotype, and women are represented in traditional roles and rarely as experts or independent women. An image of women listeners is created just to measure the audience, which is subsequently used to generate advertising revenue. They just considered for advertising revenue, which is a significant factor in the survival of private radios.

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    The 2005 report Arab women and media published by the Centre of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) underlined how 78% of the images of women carried by the media are negative and not in line with their current reality.
    A study carried out during the summer of 2002 by Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), and part of the program Family Space, showed that the speaking time for women was 13% whereas for men it was 87%. The most frequently demonstrated feminine role was that of mothers (62%).
    According to the study Image of Jordanian women in the media (2005), Arab stations in the public sector are worried about showing the contribution of women in all areas of society.
    Private radio benefits from advertising revenue. Radio Mosaïque FM in 2009 earned 11.7 million dinars, where as Radio Jawhara FM earned 6.6 million dinars. These figures represent almost 90% of radio advertising for the country.
    Internet radio Voice of women, created in Algeria in 2012 by the association Femme en communication (Women in communication), is an example of a contribution to the gender equality debate, showing another image of women.

  • Changes in the way content is dealt with between men and women on the radio of the French speaking Maghreb, a gender equality perspective.

    It is clear that the Maghreb has seen a promotion of gender equality in the media, but stereotypes persist. It must be emphasised that the business model for private radio has reached public services. Radio programs are increasingly light and the fight for listeners is fierce. Nevertheless there are radio programs that defy stereotypes.
    The World Project to monitor media (2010) emphasised that, in the Middle East (including Morocco and Tunisia), 93% of the subjects dealt with in the media strengthen sexist stereotypes. It is the highest regional percentage in the world. Even if within the media there is a substantial presence of professional women, the image of women broadcast still remains a stereotype and contributes to strengthening traditional cultural norms. In societies of the Maghreb, women are still considered as weak and fragile needing a man to accompany them. Radio, and more specifically private radio, holds part of the responsibility in the production and reproduction of the prejudices and stereotypes which shape the representations of women in societies in the Maghreb.
    In several decades of existence, representations of women on the radio of the French speaking Maghreb have barely changed, and equality between men and women is not considered when producing radio content.

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    At a world level, the World project to monitor media (2010) emphasised that, radio is the media with the lowest tendency to represent women in news topics. According to the results, 24% of people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in the media are women, 3% more than in 2005. On the radio, the representation of women in news topics is just 19% in comparison to 17% in 2005. In comparison, men occupy 76% of the space going up to 81% on the radio. 48% of reports in the media strengthen sexist stereotypes and only 8% question them.
    Radio Tunis Chaîne Nationale, National Moroccan Radio, regional radio Medi 1 generally speak to women as mothers and wives. For example, the three female characters in the program Sadakni Aman on Radio Tunis Chaîne Nationale are an authoritative mother, a crushed sister and a desperate neighbour.
    That said, community radio in Mauritania has fought against the tradition of feeding up women which consists of making women fatter in order to make them more beautiful.

  • Radio audiences in the French speaking Maghreb.

    We think that television is the most popular form of media but radio still holds a strong position. Measuring audiences is a marketing and management tool for private radios. The fight over listeners is in full swing in Morocco and Tunisia, whereas in Algeria results are not published and in Mauritania they are non-existent. In Tunisia and Morocco, 60% of listeners prefer private radio to the 40% who listen to public radio. In Algeria and Mauritania the absence of private radio concentrates the audience onto public radio stations. Where as, the private radio Medi 1, which is broadcast in all of the countries of the Maghreb from Morocco, reaches an audience of 23 million people.
    Listeners’ preference for private radio is clear. Public radios have seen a crash in their audiences in favour of private radio. The pro-governmental line adopted by public radios doesn’t allow them to change their content or to compete with private radio. Whereas so called commercial radio have been able to renew the content and format of their radio programs. They have ended up creating a closer relationship with their listeners, which is able to respond better to listener concerns. In comparison with French speaking Maghreb television, radio has seen an explosion in religious radio stations, which have become very popular in the region.

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    According to a 2005 study published by the International Research and Exchange Board, IREX, in Morocco 42% of the population listen to the radio every day and 75.6% every week. As far as language preference goes, Arabic represents 63% of those listening, where as French is chosen by 2% and 17% chose both languages. The most listened to programs are those of a religious nature (69%) especially amongst men reaching 71% in comparison with 54% of women. Nevertheless, young people chose more musical programming.
    According to the 2009 report Media and Publicity in Tunisia and the Maghreb, by the audience measuring company Sigma, 29% of respondents listen to the radio. Amongst them, 34% are women.
    In 2010, for the Greater Tunis region, Radio Mosaïque FM had 68% of the audience leaving Radio Tunis Chaîne Nationale far behind with just 6%. Radio Zitouna, a religious channel, is the only radio holding 20% of the audience in all of the regions of Tunisia. It is even gaining ground.
    In Algeria, the absence of private radio means that the battle for audiences is between Algerian public service radio and the regional Maghreb radio Medi 1, based in Tangiers Morocco. According to several surveys carried out in 2010, Chaîne 1 had an audience of 13%, Chaîne 2, 9% and Chaîne 3 between 33% and 45%. Radio El Behdja has seen its audience reach 20% and listeners of Medi 1 are about 17% but this percentage is supposed to have gone down since.
    In Mauritania, Radio Mauritanie has seen its audience go down since the birth of the public religious radio Radio Coran in 2010.

  • What kind of society is promoted by Maghreb radio?

    The four countries of the French speaking Maghreb don’t have the same kind of media landscape. Mauritania and Algeria do not yet have private media, whereas Morocco and Tunisia fully enjoy this varied landscape. What is more, Maghreb radio does not promote all of the same social values.
    Public service radio stations follow the government line and apply their development priorities by producing awareness campaigns on subjects relating to health and other themes. They apply a more traditional radio format, as well as creating traditional content, which generally promotes dominant cultural values.
    For their part, private radio are interested in subjects that attract bigger audiences, they are however influenced by the interests of investors. On the one hand they deal with taboos but on the other they regurgitate traditional female roles. This is carried out through an interactive format which allows the participation of listeners.
    In general, radio programs, including numerous religious programs, don’t take into account the issue of gender equality. It is not considered as a subject for discussion or in the way that the content is presented. This does not adequately reflect the changes in the current society, which even if it is still unequal, has seen very tangible changes since the creation of the radio stations.

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    In 2010, the Superior council for Moroccan audio-visual communication punished the private radio Hit Radio for having broadcast a song which « included an obscene term with very strong immoral and indecent connotations ». For its part, Radio Mars had its programming totally suspended for over 48 hours and fined 57,000 Moroccan dirhams for « missing its legal obligations » after a Moroccan moviemaker expressed « his hope to become President of the Moroccan Republic. »
    Radio Mauritanie censured a program because it spoke about the issue of slavery in the country.
    Radio Mosaïque FM, in Tunisia, deals with taboo subjects in certain programs. It has received support but also a lot of criticism. Radio Atlantic, In Morocco, broadcasts a program Nouadek Lik that discusses issues of sexuality.
    In Morocco in 2009, Radio Asway FM launched a red telephone service. It is a phone line available 24/7, dedicated to the public, through which the public can provide information, witness statements and questions.

  • Gender equality and discrimination by radio stations of the French speaking Maghreb.

    Stereotypes are a generalisation, an image that describes, in a limited way, all of the members of a social group. There is no doubt that gender stereotypes exist in the field of information, entertainment and radio advertising. Gender stereotypes represent women as sexual objects, objects of beauty, housewives and victims. What is more, certain categories of women receive even less attention such as older women, or those that are part of ethnic groups. However, the absence of women as experts on radio programs is not a stereotype but a gap in female speech.
    Equality between women and men aims to eliminate the artificial social inequalities that consider women as being inferior because of their sex. Equality doe not unseat men to give a higher place to women but looks for equality between women and men. It strives for everybody to have the same conditions and fully enjoy their human rights.
    It is for this that each media operator must consider the way that content is dealt with from a gender equality perspective. For that, self-regulation plays an essential role, as does a voluntary commitment to produce responsible information in line with ethical principles and to ensure the accuracy of information delivered.

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    According to the 1995 Beijing action plan; media must represent women who work in positions of responsibility, who have an expertise and experience, as well as women who are able to reconcile professional and familial responsibilities. This means, for example, producing and/or broadcasting audio-visual programs on women holding management posts. It should present them as women who fulfil their multi-role functions using their experience, reconciling professional responsibilities and familial responsibilities, whether they are administrative workers, or business leaders. This is to be done in a way that encourages young women to follow their example.
    In Morocco, the National charter for the improvement of the image of women in the media was published in 2005. There is no similar initiative in the other three countries. However, in 2010 no intervention actions were carried out against content that damaged the image and dignity of women in the media of Morocco.
    Radio-Canada has developed directorial lines in favour of equality between men and women to ensure a fair representation of people from both sexes.

  • Advice and recommendations for radio which promotes gender equality (1)

    Decision makers and the owners of radio stations are invited to develop policies and/or directives on gender equality within their establishment as well as part of their day-to-day work. Media uses directives to function. These directives determine the radio’s general orientation, their mandate, and their targeted public. However, there is not a single Maghreb radio that includes the question of equality between women and men in its directives. Placing importance on including gender equality policies conveys the radio’s responsibility to their public.
    A policy that respects the equality of women and men must recognise that; women, just as much as men, have an important role to play in society; that the nature of female participation is determined by the relations between the sexes making their participation different and often unequal to that of men and; that as a consequence women have needs, interests and priorities which are different and can sometimes be contrary to those of men. It has to be stressed that all themes (politics, economics, sport, art, etc.) can be dealt with through a gender equality perspective between women and men.
    Radio programming is at the heart of the war for radio listeners. By taking into account equality between women and men, programming directors produce programs, which involve, in a fair way, the concerns of women and men and respond to the needs of different targeted audiences.

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    For the owners/ decision makers of radio:

    To do
    •    Carry out an audit of programming in order to analyse the representation of women
    •    Create a policy involving equality between women and men
    •    Establish a clear policy on advertising content
    •    Raise awareness and train radio professionals on the principles of equality
    •    Increase the number of women occupying posts of middle and upper management
    •    Avoid the broadcasting of negative representations of women as well as the reproduction of sexist stereotypes
    To avoid
    •    Writing policies without consulting experts in the subject
    •    Writing short-term projects
    •    Imposing equality policies instead of including the parties affected in their writing

    For programming directors:

    To do
    •    Separate the public across the schedule and create slots for each target according to the criteria of age, status, role, etc.
    •    Involve women in the creation of the programming timetable and bear in mind the restrictions on the women’s time when timetabling items.
    •    Create a chart of non-discriminatory language
    To avoid
    •    Resorting to generalisations of women
    •    Programming which reduces women just to their traditional roles
    •    Excluding men from the content on women’s equality
    Paternalistic and moralising tone towards women

  • Advice and recommendations for radio which promotes gender equality.

    Advertising has become an indispensible tool for financing public service radio and private radio. Several radio operators give it too much place and advocate for the hegemony of advertising agencies and their interference in the production of radio programs. This section therefore includes recommendations in order to harmonise the work of advertising and announcement directors.

    In order to improve representations of women on the radio, professionals can contribute in different ways to the fair access of women and men on the radio. Let’s take for example the lack of women as sources of information on radio in the Maghreb. Program producers can correct the situation by inviting women as experts or interviewing them as sources of information.

    Content producers for radio carry a large part of the responsibility for bearing in mind equality between women and men in radio programming. In this way, they must not be the reproducers of social and cultural clichés, which denigrate women reducing them to traditional roles. This section proposes areas for reflexion and recommendations for creating information programs, entertainment programs and talk shows, which integrate the points of view of men and women free from sexist stereotypes.

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    For advertising directors:

    To do
    •    Establish an office policy on advertising that forbids announcements denigrating women and that governs the selection of announcements to be broadcast.
    •    Represent the different categories of women in advertising
    To avoid
    •    Allow statements which discredit women
    •    Consider women only as mothers, wives, burdens and passive participants in life

    For producers and chief editors:

    To do
    •    Give equal speaking time to women
    •    Ban sexist stereotypes in reports
    •    In cases of attacks, not to exonerate the attacker
    •    Develop an address book of female experts
    •    Offer training to journalists on dealing fairly with information
    •    Include women from different ethics origins as well as different social classes, age groups, etc.
    •    Interview women as experts and sources of information

    To avoid
    •    Reduce women to traditional roles and banalize their concerns
    Marginalise women’s voices and show them as victims

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    • When was the first Maghreb radio created ?
    • The liberalisation of the radio took place in the same time across the four countries of the French speaking Maghreb.
    • Do the representations of women in the radio promote equality between women and men ?
    • In general, is equality between women and men taken into consideration ?
    • How have representations of women evolved over the past few decades ?
    • The business model to produce private radio has influenced public sector radio.
    • Which is the preferred language for Radio listeners in the French speaking Maghreb ?
    • There has been a proliferation of religious radio programs in recent years.
    • In which countries do we find the most reliable listener studies ?
    • Does the media reflect the changes that society in the Maghreb has undergone ?
    • Radio never speaks about taboos.
    • Can radio stations be punished because of the content of their programs ?
    • What are some of the gender stereotypes representing women ?
    • What is equality ?
    • What is self-regulation ?
    • What measures must be avoided by owners and decision makers ?
    • It is not desirable to write a charter of non-discriminatory language.
    • Any topic can be dealt with using a gender equality perspective between women and men.
    • It is recommendable to represent the different categories of women in advertising.
    • What are the « recommendable » actions for producers and editors ?
    • What sources of information must be used to create equal content ?

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