Before the 1990s, the prevailing media practices in Morocco were partisan, administrative, and authoritative in nature. The country witnessed significant growth in print, broadcast, and digital media. This signalled a 180-degree turn in the form and function of the media.
The new market-oriented media landscape has served to reduce mass media reliance on government funding and to loosen government coercion. Digitization has brought about many changes to the media landscape in Morocco. Traditional media outlets, both print and broadcasting, have been exposed to unique challenges that impacted their traditional business models, funding sources, as well as their regulatory schemes.
Media use changed through the processes of digitization, personalization, customization, and narrowcasting. Traditional media have been adapting and adjusting to the effects of new communication technologies, moving steadily towards greater innovation. The news industry has begun to explore new directions such as combining internet and mobile communications networks and platforms to produce online newspapers and magazines.
The immense possibilities of digital communication have also challenged the scope and capacity of the current government media policies. The government’s use of implicit and explicit administrative and bureaucratic mechanisms of manoeuvring, oversight, and control will continue to play a key part in media evolution. Consequently, the existing media laws in Morocco; the Press Code and the Audiovisual Communication Law, are likely to be further reformed to reflect the ongoing democratization process.
A study on mapping digital media in Morocco was carried out to examine the emergence of new media platforms, the consumer choices and preferences in news and information, the impact of digitization on democracy, journalists’ activity, media ownership, and media policy.
The project from the Open Society Media Program found that most Moroccan households are not prepared to access content provided by digital media, but recent developments in the telecom sector show that this situation will change in the near future. Internet access and use are currently limited to urban areas and to educated urban segments of Morocco’s population. Rural areas constitute 37.1 percent of the total and many rural dwellers have access to electricity and can therefore access television and radio, but most do not have access to landline phones and the internet.
Many policymakers are aware of the digital divide, and believe that universal access is a goal that the government ought to pursue. The National Agency for the Regulation of Telecommunication initiated the GENIE (2005) and PACTE (2008) projects. These projects aim to generalize the usage of ICT among all segments of the population. In October 2009, the government launched the national strategy “Maroc Numérique 2013” (Digital Morocco 2013). By March 2010, the number of mobile phone subscribers reached 27 million, with a growth of 6.86 percent (compared with 2009) and a penetration rate of 85.82 percent.
In the context of the rise of the internet and mobile phones, the study found that the media would undergo a very particular process that can be described as the marginalization of mainstream media and the mainstreaming of marginal media. Citizen journalists, bloggers, and social media communicators will receive attention and audiences, whereas the very impact of the mainstream and conventional media will likely be constrained and have limited societal effects.
Mobile phones have the potential to deliver media content to illiterate audiences and can therefore help overcome the problem of access to news. The future of the media in Morocco may lie in the realm of mobile multi-media platforms.
The authors of the report, Mapping Digital Media: Morocco, are Bouziane Zaid (Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane) and Mohamed Ibahrine (American University in Sharjah). The full report can be read by clicking on the link below: