BEIRUT: The state-owned television station – Tele Liban – will undergo a major overhaul in terms of employees, studios and board of directors in the near future, Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said Monday following a meeting of the Telecom parliamentary committee.
"The TV station needs a new strategy to boost its performance, thus replacing its board of directors is a good first step, as well as undertaking a major overhaul," Jreij said during a news conference.
According to a highly placed company source, Tele Liban's previous equipment was aging and the station was limited to broadcasting from only four towers across Lebanon, while the main studio located in Tallet El-Khayat was cramped and in need of renovation. The current staff lacks younger workers and the average employee is 54 years old.
In June of 2015, the government allocated $1 million to reopen and refurbish its long and shuttered Hazmieh station that has been closed for almost 15 years with the project receiving the green light from both Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Speaker Nabih Berri.
The Hazmieh station is now fully rehabilitated , re-equipped and boasts up-to-date cameras, trucks and other equipment supplanting equipment that dated from 2001, as well as adding 17 broadcasting towers permitting it to air across almost 95 percent of Lebanese territory.
"Previously, our newest camera was at least 12 years old but now our newest camera is barely a year old, while taking into consideration that Tele Liban is the only TV station in Lebanon that airs using fiber optic cables since the shift of work has transformed from analog to digital," the source said.
A TL delegation briefed on Monday the Telecom parliamentary committee about the latest update at the station, stressing that the network needed to continue modernization with assistance from the government, including the appointment of board of directors which is qualified in the field of production, the source noted.
"We hope that the new board of directors which will be appointed by the Cabinet, would be qualified and knowledgeable in the field of production while steering away from partisan appointments," the source quoted the TL delegation as saying.
According to the source, the needed rehabilitation of the Tallet El-Khayat station is to allow coordination with its Hazmieh counterpart to produce a full range of programming, including political talk shows, news coverage as well as cultural content.
MP Hassan Fadlallah, who chaired the committee, noted that TL's government funding assists the station to operate free of advertising problems amid a media industry crisis which is currently burdening most privately owned media outlets.
In May of 2015, during a conference, Tele Liban CEO Talal Makdessi noted that Lebanon's TV stations suffer from marked operating deficit.
"Total expenses of television stations in the country reached $110 million in 2014 while their revenues amounted to only $60 million, which left them with a deficit of $50 million," Makdessi said during a discussion revolving around the major difficulties undermining media and advertising in Lebanon at the Beirut Traders Association last year.
Makdessi explained that TV stations affiliated with political parties are directly funded by them in order to compensate for the deficit, while independent TV stations are forced to run biased news in pay-for-coverage schemes.
The TL CEO noted that the declining economy, and deadlocked political system, has weighed heavily on revenues generated by TV stations. Makdessi also said that media companies' expenditure on advertising plans exceeds the amount of actual advertising purchases by Lebanon's businesses.
"This wide deficit is partly due to local TV stations attempting to compete with international cable networks by spending big sums of money on their programs since the Lebanese population is very particular," Makdessi added.
Jreij noted during Monday's news conference that the Cabinet is currently negotiating with the Egyptian satellite provider Nilesat for the possible renovation of their government-owned station in the Metn District of Jouret El-Ballout after the provider claimed that it will cease its operations in Lebanon due to its contract's expiration with the local government.
Earlier last week, Nilesat announced that it will begin to charge Tele Liban a broadcast fee at the beginning of September, since the state-run TV station had been using Nilesat's satellite services free of charge for allowing the Egyptian provider to operate from their Metn offices.
Tele Liban was founded in August 1956 after two Lebanese businessmen Wissam Izzeddine and Alex Moufarrej signed an agreement with the Lebanese government to grant them the first local television company license which would last for 15 years.
In the spring 1957 both President Camille Chamoun and Prime Minister Sami Solh placed the cornerstone on the building of the first TV station in not only Lebanon, but the Middle East, on the sandy hill in Beirut called Tallet El-Khayat, from where programs first aired on May 28, 1959.
In that period, broadcasting time did not exceed six hours per day, from six in the evening until midnight. Tele Liban's success encouraged a group of Lebanese businessmen to set up and form a second television named Tele-Orient which obtained its own license in July 1961, which later merged with Tele Liban to make it fully owned by the government.
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