Friday, November 24, 2006

Morocco needs a media voice in English.

"THE VIEW FROM FEZ (TVFZ) est plus qu’un blog : un vrai portail anglophone marocain. Aussi incroyable que cela puisse paraître, depuis l’arrêt de Morocco Times, TVFZ est le seul site marocain rendant compte de l’actualité du Royaume en langue anglaise. Ce blog collaboratif est un bon espoir qui fera sûrement parler de lui dans le futur." - Le magazine des blogs au Maroc *Translation at foot of post

One thing is very clear in the Moroccan media at the moment and that is that the Moroccan Communication minister, Nabil Benabdellah, is pressing ahead with reforms and is to be congratulated on his progress. The minister has been working hard for several years now and media watchers will recall that back in 2005, almost 6 million USD was allotted to several press organs, and reforms included putting an end to the State monopoly on the Broadcasting sector and establishing the High Authority of Communication and Broadcasting (HACA).

On Thursday, the minister announced that the new Press Code will provide for the lifting of several liberty deprivation provisions. The new code "will grant more freedom of expression," Benabdallah said at a conference themed "Communication and reform in Morocco", stressing that it will also raise the issue of press ethics.

As for the press sector evolution, the ministerl noted that a body dubbed the National Press Council will be created to tackle the ethics issue, recalling that Morocco has implemented a support policy to back up the written press.

Urgent attention to English is needed

However, one area that needs urgent attention is the lack of an effective English language portal on the internet and in print. The days when English was of secondary importance to Morocco are long gone and in business, tourism and particularly property, English news and information is in high demand.

For almost two years the Morocco Times tried valiantly to fill the gap, but is now gone. The reasons for its demise need to be examined and a new online presence established that builds on what Morocco Times began but includes a sense of fun, gossip as well as news and information.

For the last few days The View from Fez has been analyzing web traffic relating to Morocco in English and the results are what we expected - a huge demand for information in English.

We took the statistics for the last 100,000 page views and discovered that 25.86% of visitors came from the USA and 20.13% from Great Britain. Next in descending order were Morocco, France, Australia, Canada and Ireland.

75% of readers from all countries use English as their primary computer language, followed by French, 14%, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian and Japanese.

How do people discover Morocco?

In the info-search world, Google reigns supreme. 54% of all visitors find information on Morocco by using Google, 4 percent use other search engines such as Yahoo or MSN. 7% are referred to us by other English language sites. The remaining visitors use no search engine but come directly to the site. Returning visitors make up 30% of our readers and the returnees spend longer reading more articles on their subsequent visits.

Although The View from Fez has a translation facility so that non-English speaking readers can access information or stories, in the last 100,000 page views only 60 were translated.

So? What does all this tell us?

The answer is a simple one: An English language news portal is needed.

And we are not the only's saying this: "There is a huge need for an English news source from Morocco, but mostly, there is a need for an international knowledge of Morocco" Othman El Oumeir, president of Group Maroc Soir

Minister Benabdallah, over to you.

Further reading: The Obituary for the Morocco Times.

*translation of the The Magazine of Moroccan Blogs quote:

The View From Fez is more than a blog: it's a truly anglophone Moroccan portal. And most remarkably, since the demise of the Morocco Times, TVFZ is the only Moroccan site providing news about the Kingdom in English. This collaborative blog has great promise that will surely be talked about in the future.



Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Hmmmm....let's hope that the good minister is reading this blog...

Derry said...

Yes please! Expand The View from Fez and you have the answer to the minister's problem. If he is as good as you say, he will be on the phone any minute!

Chantelle said...

You guys should get a fee from the Fez and Morocco Tourist authorities! Keep up the great service - it is all we have.

El Glaoui said...

Thanks for the kind words. I am certain that the Moroccan minister will address this problem with some urgency as the lack of an English web portal is not good for trade, business, tourism or simply for news.

Ibn Kafka said...

The question of the place of English is interesting indeed. I am convinced that the use of French as a parallel (un)official language has quite a few drawbacks (of course, it has som advantages too), among them the total (and reciprocal) lack of interest in Morocco for the rest of the world that is not France (and with the obvious exception of American mass/trash culture), in all areas - law, business opportunities, culture, etc...

Our lazy business class is too terrified of having to learn a few phrases in English or to take a step in a foreign country other than France to take advantage of the business opportunities in the rest of the world. Our lawmakers copy slavishly French law (taking good care to leave out the few good bits). And don't mention Jürgen Habermas, Noam Chomsky or Anthony Giddens to a Moroccan intellectual, (s)he's too busy reading Pascal Bruckner's or Alain Finkielkraut's latest substandard pamphlet.

And most of it is due to this obsession with France & French language that is so prevalent with our elite. I am not saying with should cut France loose, but some variation would bee in our interest - wait a minute, I'm reasoning as if our "décideurs" cared about Morocco's general interest...

Cat in Rabat said...

I am sad to say that I agree 100% with Ibn Kafka. The proprietor of my hanoot speaks more English than any official I've ever dealt with at Mohammed V airport. English schools abound in Morocco but ask any student why they've enrolled & they'll tell you it's to understand rap lyrics and/or go to the US - not to read the New Yorker magazine.

An English language newspaper, for example, would have a very narrow demographic, & we shouldn't delude ourselves as to its make up.

Oscar Hemmel said...

I agree with Cat - but I think what is needed is something like The View from Fez - an fun, newsy, look at Morocco. English is the language of Morocco's greatest growth area in tourism. No, not a newspaper, but a web portal.