Jordan Television to merge its three channels into one
Making good on promises to upgrade and restructure the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation, the JRTVC board has decided to merge JTV's three channels into one super 24-hour channel as of early 2001, a senior JRTVC official said on Tuesday.
JTV has three channels: The main Channel 1 in Arabic, Channel 2 in English and French, and Channel 3 which is a satellite channel. The official who preferred not to be named told the Jordan Times that the best of the three channels will be condensed into one solid 24-hour channel catering for the different sections of society.
“However, merging the programs into one channel does not mean that Channels 2 and 3 will be shut down,” he said. “We are merely redirecting the purpose of the channels.” The official said that Channel 2 would be redirected for (c-Span) light events including sports, Parliament sessions especially since the Kingdom is approaching an election year, and other main events like the Arab summit.
He said the main channel, which will be aired on the satellite signal as well, will have a fixed or solid programming grid, an issue that was not present before; while Channel 2 would be used for non-fixed and live coverage of events including conferences and summits. “The content of TV will be affected greatly,” he said, adding that the employees in both Channels 2 and 3 will not be affected but rather integrated into the system.
The official told the Jordan Times that the decision was part of a move called for by King Abdullah, to reform and restructure the indebted, grossly overstaffed and poor performing institution. “We have to take drastic measures with JTV to uplift and improve the current situation and find a way to repay the debts,” the official said.
The corporation is five million Jordanian dinars in debt. Ten out of its JD12 million annual budget is spent on salaries for the 3,200 employees, many of whom were appointed on personal connection basis and rarely show up for work. The rest of the budget goes to low cost programs and documentaries and for freelancers or newly recruited technicians.
According to officials, a large portion of the budget has for the past consecutive years been drained by successive administrations. In addition, poor quality programming and lack of credibility in news reporting have forced the Jordanian audience to seek better entertainment with satellite channels.
The reform process in the state-owned media is meant to guarantee improved performance, a higher ceiling of freedom of expression, establish credibility and build capacity. Under its newly appointed board and new director general, Nart Bouran, and in a move to regain its audience, JTV has already started improving its news coverage and reporting policies.
The move to merge the channels is seen as the second step in the restructuring process, which entails improving the corporation's financial situation by finding ways to make it more self-reliant and running it on a commercial basis, particularly considering that the corporation is expected to operate with a decreased budget in 2001.
The official said the commercially sound move would improve advertising, considering slots would decrease and rates would go up. Consistent programming hours would also encourage advertisement and target the right audiences at the right time.
“Noon time, which is often not used properly or doesn't serve the audience of that time of day, will be more productive from now on, especially in terms of advertisements,” he added. “It is a good idea,” said an observer. “Why keep three unproductive and not entertaining channels when you can give a far better one,” he said. “In addition, keeping the three channels is very expensive and financially straining and would only increase the debts on the corporation,” he added.
However, some who heard about the plan say the unified channel gives little room for the audience to flip between the three channels to which they are accustomed, and they would be forced to watch the time and wait for their favorite programs to appear.
“It is a process, and with TV you are not supposed to memorize the timing of each program, you just want to relax and watch,” said an avid TV viewer. “Yet one will have to wait and see — we cannot judge without going through the experience of testing the waters,” said another. — ( Jordan Times )
By Alia Shukri Hamzeh
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)