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Indicators of Risks to Media Pluralism

 

 

Media Audience Concentration

This indicator assesses the concentration of audience and readership across Lebanon’s media platforms based on audience share. Concentration is measured by using the nationwide four largest owners in the market. Presented are the sums of the audience shares collected by IPSOS and provided by Vertical Media. With a highly concentrated TV, print and radio markets, media audience concentration puts a high risk on media pluralism in Lebanon.

Why? 

Television - The TV market shows the highest audience concentration with the four major companies reaching 78.1% of the audience. The first three owners alone gather almost 70% of the audience. The market leader is the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), which is co-owned by the Pierre El Daher (46.5%) and Issam Fares (20%) and their respective relatives among others. More than one Lebanese out of four watch LBCI (25.8% of the audience). Second is Al Jadeed, which is mainly owned by Tahseen Khayat’s family (58.1%) and gathers 22% of the audience. Meanwhile, Michel Gabriel Murr’s family reaches one Lebanese out of five (20% of the audience), through MTV. The Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated OTV is the fourth-ranking company reaching 10.1% of the audience; it is partly owned by the family of Lebanon’s current President Michel Aoun.

TV AUDIENCE CONCENTRATION : 78.1%
  • Lebanese  Broadcasting  Corporation  International - LBCI  (25.8%)
  • MTV  S.A.L. - MTV  (20.1%)
  • Alubnianiya  lil  Ilam - OTV 

Radio - The radio market is very concentrated with the four major companies gathering 72% of the audience. They are also clearly politically affiliated. The leading company is Société Moderne d’Information S.A.L., mainly owned by Imad Khazen and his two brothers and gathering 20.7% of the audience through Voix du Liban 93.3 FM. It is closely followed by Liban Libre pour la Production et la Diffusion S.A.L., fully owned by the Lebanese Forces political party reaching 17.8% of the audience through Radio Liban Libre. The third-ranking owner is MP Elias Bou Saab, affiliated to the Free Patriotic Movement, owning 99% of Al Mada Group S.A.R.L., reaching 17% of the audience through Sawt El Mada. In fourth position, the Phalange Party fully owns the Société Nouvelle d'Information Audiovisuelle S.A.L., reaching 16.5% of the audience through Voix du Liban 100.3 FM. As such, the radio market is also highly politicized as political parties own outlets gathering 51.3% of the audience.

RADIO AUDIENCE CONCENTRATION : 72%
Société  Moderne  d’Information  S.A.L. - Voix  du  Liban  93.3  FM (20.7%)  
Liban  Libre  pour  la  Production  et  la  Diffusion  S.A.L. - Radio  Liban  Libre  (17.8%)  
Al Mada Gourp S.A.R.L - Sawt El Mada (17%)
Societe Nouvelle d'Information Audiovisuelle S.A.R.L - Voix du Liban 100.3 FM (16.5%)
Lebanese Communication Group L.C.G SAL : Al Nour (13%)

Print - The print market is also very concentrated, with the four major companies reaching 77.9% of the audience. The leading company on the market is Al Joumhouria News Corp S.A.L., reaching 22.4% of the audience and almost fully owned by the Michel Elias Murr family. Next is Annahar S.A.L. co-owned by the Tuéni and Hariri families among others. Annahar S.A.L. reaches 21.9% of the audience through the daily Annahar. The third-ranking owner is Akhbar Beirut S.A.L., the publishing house of Al-Akhbar newspaper, gathering 18.2% of the audience, co-owned by its Editor-in-Chief, Ibrahim Al-Amine and Youssef Wehbi. In the fourth position, Al Nahda S.A.L., almost fully owned by its Editor-in-Chief Charles Ayoub and in which Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding has a symbolic share, reaches 15.4% of the audience through Addiyar daily newspaper. 

PRINT READERSHIP CONCENTRATION : 77.9%
Al  Joumhouria  News  Corp.  S.A.L.- Al  Joumhouria  (22.4%) 
Annahar  S.A.L.- Annahar  (21.9%)  
Akhbar  Beirut  S.A.L.- Al  Akhbar  (18.2%)  
Al  Nahda  S.A.L.- Addiyar  (15.4%)  

Online - For the online market, data was only available in terms of unique visitors but not as audience share. This prevented the calculation of an audience concentration for the online news market. Some of the most popular websites, however, belong to companies and owners that also publish other media outlets, which strengthens their cross-media presence. 

LOWMEDIUMHIGH
Audience concentration in television (horizontal) : 78.1%
If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share below 25%.  If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share between 25% and 49%.  If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share above 50%. 
Audience concentration in radio (horizontal) : 72%
If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share below 25%.  If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share between 25% and 49%. If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share above 50%
Readership concentration in newspapers (horizontal) : 77.9%
If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have a readership share below 25%. If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have a readership share between 25% and 49%.  If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have a readership share above 50%. 
Audience concentration in online (horizontal) : Audience share not available ; only unique browsers
If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share below 25%.  If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share between 25% and 49%.  If within one country the major four owners (Top4) have an audience share above 50%. 

Media Market Concentration

Result: No Data

This indicator aims to assess the horizontal ownership concentration based on market share, which illustrates the economic power of companies/groups. Concentration is measured for each media sector by adding the market shares of the four major owners in the sector. 

No financial information is available on the media market as a whole. None of the contacted media outlets shared their financial information. Therefore, market share for the companies studied remains unknown and media ownership concentration based on market share could not be computed. In accordance with the MOM methodology, if the country presents data on audience, but not on revenues/market share: the market share data is excluded from the analysis, i.e., the findings are based on the audience data alone and the revenue data is considered optional. 

Regulatory Safeguards: Media Ownership Concentration

Result: High Risk

This indicator assesses the existence and effective implementation of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific and/or competition law) against a high horizontal concentration ownership and/or control in the different media.

Why?

Generally, monopolistic practices are regulated by the Lebanese commercial legislation (mainly article 14 of Legislative decree No. 73 of 1983), but there is nothing specific to the media sector. There is no administrative authority or judicial body monitoring compliance with the threshold in the broadcast, online or print sector. Criminal courts theoretically enforce the articles against monopolistic practices of the commercial legislation.

Media ownership concentration is largely addressed through the 1962 Press Law and the 1994 Audiovisual Media Law. According to the 1962 Press Law, the owner and all shareholders of a media company must be Lebanese citizens. Article 31 also states that one person is allowed own a newspaper. According to the 1994 Audiovisual Media Law, any person or entity cannot own, directly or indirectly, more than 10% of the total shareholding of a single broadcast media station. However, this provision is circumvented in several instances.

In the broadcast sector (TV and Radio), the National Media Council studies licensing requests. It monitors the performance of media bodies, submits reports to the Ministry of Information on the TV and radio programs and news content, submits recommendations to the Council of Ministers, and works on drafting laws and regulations.

The print sector is formally organized into two bodies: the Lebanese Press Order for owners and the Lebanese Press Editors Syndicate for editors and journalists. There is, however, no administrative authority or judicial body actively monitoring compliance with the media concentration regulations. The 1962 Press Law requires that any newspaper or periodical that wants to publish news on political events must first obtain a legislative decree granting it a Category 1 licence.

Ownership concentration in the online sector is not regulated. The Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (TRA) is the only agency regulating the spectrum and attributing licences to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but in fact the TRA has been suspended and its powers transferred to the Ministry of Telecommunications.

For more information, read MOM Lebanon Legal Assessment.

Regulatory Safeguard Score: 

4 out of 20 – High Risk (20%). 
1 = media-specific regulation/ authority
0.5= competition-related regulation/ authority

Table summarizes TV/Radio/Online/Print - Max. score: 4 per sector. DescriptionYesNoNAMD

Does the media legislation contain specific thresholds or limits, based on objective criteria (e.g. number of licenses, audience share, circulation, distribution of share capital or voting rights, turnover/revenue) to prevent a high level of horizontal concentration of ownership and/or control in this sector? 

This question aims to assess the existence of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific) against a high horizontal concentration of ownership and/or control in the Television sector.

 

 

Is there an administrative authority or judicial body actively monitoring compliance with the thresholds in the print sector and/or hearing complaints? (e.g. media and/or competition authority)?    

This variable aims to assess if the law/regulation provides a due monitoring and sanctioning system for the regulation on audiovisual media concentration.    

 

  0

Does the law grant this body sanctioning/enforcement powers in order to impose proportionate remedies (behavioral and/or structural) in case of non-respect of the thresholds?    

The variable aims at assessing if the law is providing a due system of sanctions to sector-specific regulation, such as:

-Refusal of additional licences;

-Blocking of a merger or acquisition;

-Obligation to allocate windows for third party programming;

- Obligation to give up licences/activities in other media sectors;

-divestiture.  

 

  0

  

Are these sanctioning/enforcement powers effectively used?    

This indicator aims to assess the effective implementation of sector-specific remedies against a high horizontal concentration of ownership and/or control in the television media.    

Low risk: the relevant authority effectively uses its sanctioning powers in all the relevant cases

Medium risk: the authority's powers are not always used in all the relevant

2
Total 

4

Cross-media Ownership Concentration

Result: Medium Risk

This indicator aims to assess the concentration of ownership across the different sectors – TV, print, audio, and any other relevant media – of the media industry. Cross-media concentration is measured by adding up the market shares of the top-8 media companies or owners. In this case, financial market shares were not always available. Cross-media ownership was instead calculated on the basis of weighted audience shares for the print, radio and TV market. Audience shares for online outlets were not available. The results are not an indicator for economic strength in different media sectors but rather for the potential influence on public opinion when considering all media types.

Disclaimer: We acknowledge that data of audience reach is difficult, to some extent impossible to compare. For example, how can one combine metrics like numbers of newspapers sold, clicks online and TV ratings – provided that the data is correct – in one consolidated indicator? In media studies and market research firms, this dilemma is being addressed but not solved yet. We are not pretending to have done so. However, our methodology is designed to indicate certain trends of cross-media concentration and to provide transparency and explanations of how we reached this conclusion.

Why?

We are unable to identify the top 8 firms with the highest revenue across all media sectors (TV, radio, newspapers, and online content providers) due to lack of financial data. Instead, this indicator is calculated based on audience shares and as such, the results presented are not an indicator of economic strength in different media sectors but rather for the potential influence on public opinion. 

The MOM team identified five major owners holding shares in media outlets across television, radio, and print sectors based on audience share. Almost all of the selected media outlets have online editions. However, as of now, due to the lack of online audience data, we are unable to calculate their reach through online platforms. Therefore, the actual cross-media audience share would exceed the findings whenever media owners also run online outlets. Therefore, the data provided might not show the full picture or could even be an underestimation of the real audience reach and potential influence on public opinion these owners might have.

No audience share has been used since we lack this data in the online sector, but the media specific audience share was used when calculating in comparison to the overall media market. However, from observation, we can identify certain owners who have activities in more than one media sector and outlet, e.g. the Hariri family.

Media consumption is much different in Lebanon than other developing countries; people tend to watch TV much more than listen to radio or read newspapers. Different media sectors have different relevance and therefore weight and influence in Lebanese society.

Overall Media Market
Smartphone76%29.3
Computer21%8.1
Tablet10%3.9
Newspapers96%37.1
Radio39%15.1

Media ownership in Lebanon is fragmented among several owners. Cross-media ownership is mostly present among parties (FPM, Hezbollah, Lebanese Forces, and Amal Movement) and two major families (Hariri and Mikati). Most media outlets are owned through companies, but the owners of a significant number of these companies belong to a handful of major players in all the different media sectors.

The Hariri Family, who are the only owners who have shares in all media sectors (print, radio and TV sector) and own major shares in media outlets. Their audience combines:

  • 29.6 % of the print audience through Al Mustaqbal, Daily Star and Annahar,
  • 7.7 % of the radio audience through Radio Orient, and
  • 7.8 % of the TV audience through Future TV,
  • In addition to the audience reached through the online platforms associated with the media outlets, which cannot be identified in numbers.

The Mikati familywho own major shares in media outlets in the TV and online sector. Their audience combines:

  • 25.8% of the TV audience through LBC,
  • 567,240 unique browsers through Lebanon 24,
  • In addition to the audience reached through the online platforms associated with the media outlets, which cannot be identified in numbers.

The Lebanese State, which owns a TV station and a radio station (in addition to the National News Agency). Their audience combines:

  • 7.2 % of TV audience through Télé Liban, and
  • 0.5 % of radio audience through Radio Liban,
  • In addition to the audience reached through the online platforms associated with the media outlets, which cannot be identified in numbers.

Hezbollah, which owns media outlets in the radio and TV sectors through the Lebanese Communication Group L.C.G. SAL, in addition to Al Ahed news website. Their audience combines:

  • 13 % of the radio audience through Al-Nour, and
  • 4 % of the TV audience through Al-Manar,
  • In addition to the audience reached through the online platforms associated with the media outlets, which cannot be identified in numbers.

The Lebanese Forces, which own media outlets in the radio, print (Al-Massira magazine) and online sector, pending the final court decision about LBCI’s ownership. Their audience combines:

  • 17.8 % of the radio audience through Radio Liban Libre, and
  • 206,421 unique browsers through their website Lebanese-Forces.com,
  • In addition to the audience reached through the online platforms associated with the media outlets, which cannot be identified in numbers.
LOWMEDIUMHIGH
If within one country the major eight owners (Top8) have a market share below 50% across the different media sectors.  If within one country the major eight owners (Top8) have an audience share between 50% and 69% across the different media sectors. If within one country the major eight owners (Top8) have a market share above 70% across the different media sectors.

 

Meta Data: 

The audience shares in print, TV and radio were weighted in accordance with media consumption habits in the country: print 6.6%, TV 37.1%, radio 15.1%. As the sum of these three is equal to 58.8%, we consider this number as 100, i.e. it is taken as the new universe. The sum of the audience shares of top-5 owners is weighted in accordance with the new universe. 

The number of unique browsers is an average of the numbers of August, September and October 2018. The data was provided by Vertical Media.

Regulatory Safeguards: Cross-media Ownership Concentration

Result: High Risk

This indicator aims to assess the existence and effective implementation of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific and/or competition law) against a high degree of cross-ownership between media types (press, TV, radio, internet).

Why?

  • There is no authority actively monitoring cross-media ownership. Generally, monopolistic practices are regulated by the Lebanese commercial legislation (mainly article 14 of Legislative Decree No. 73 of 1983). However, no regulation deals specifically with media concentration. Media ownership concentration is largely addressed through the 1962 Press Law and the 1994 Audiovisual Media Law.
  • According to article 12 of the 1994 Audiovisual Media Law, a company is allowed to own a maximum of two broadcast companies simultaneously: one TV and one radio station. It cannot own two TV stations or two radio stations. This restriction applies only to TV and radio and there is no mention related to ownership of cable, Internet and newspapers. There is no mention either of a limited market share. As such, it is on paper possible for a company to own a license for a TV and a radio that can cover 99% of the market. It would also be possible for this company to own all newspapers and ISPs in the country.
  • The 1962 Press Law does not deal with any form of cross-media ownership.

For more information, read MOM Lebanon Legal Assessment.

Regulatory Safeguard Score:

1 out of 8 - High Risk (Regulation: 12.5%)

CROSS-MEDIA OWNERSHIPDescriptionYesNoNAMD

Does the media legislation contain specific thresholds, based on objective criteria, such as number of licences, audience share, circulation, distribution of share capital or voting rights, turnover/revenue, to prevent a high degree of cross-ownership between the different media?    

This indicator aims to assess the existence of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific and/or competition law) against a high degree of cross-ownership in different media sectors.    

0.5 

Is there an administrative authority or judicial body actively monitoring compliance with these thresholds and/or hearing complaints? (e.g. media authority=1, competition authority=0.5)  

This variable aims to assess if the law/regulation provides a due monitoring and sanctioning system for the regulation on audiovisual media concentration.    

  0

Does the law grant body sanctioning/enforcement powers in order to impose proportionate remedies (behavioural and/or structural) in case of non-respect of the thresholds?    

The variable aims at assessing if the law is providing a due system of sanctions to sector-specific regulation, such as:

- Refusal of additional licences;

- Blocking of a merger or acquisition;

- Obligation to allocate windows for third party programming;

- Obligation to give up licences/activities in other media sectors

- divestiture.

0.5  

Are these sanctioning/enforcement powers effectively used?    



The question aims at assessing the effectiveness of the remedies provided by the regulation.    



Low risk: the relevant authority effectively uses its sanctioning powers in all the relevant cases


Medium risk: the authority's powers are not always used in all the relevant cases

High risk: the relevant authority never uses its sanctioning powers

0

Can a high degree of cross-ownership between different media be prevented via merger control/competition rules that take into account the specificities of the media sector?    

For instance, cross-ownership can be prevented by comptetion law:

- by the mandatory intervention of a media authority in M&A cases (for instance, the obligation for the competition authority to ask the advice of the media authority);

- by the possibility to overrule the approval of a concentration by the competition authority for reasons of media pluralism (or Public interest in general);

 Even though the law does not contain media-specific provisions - it does not exclude the media sector from its scope of application.

  0

Is there an administrative authority or judicial body actively monitoring compliance with these rules and/or hearing complaints? (e.g. media and/or competition authority)    

This variable aims to assess if the law/regulation provides a due monitoring and sanctioning system for the regulation against a high degree of cross-ownership in different media sectors via merger control/competition rules.   

  0

Does the law grant body sanctioning/enforcement powers in order to impose proportionate remedies (behavioural and/or structural) in case of non-respect of the thresholds?    

Examples sanctioning/enforcement powers and remedies:

- blocking of a merger or acquisition;

- obligation to allocate windows for third party programming;

- must carryobligation to give up licences/activities in other media sectors;

- divestiture. 

  0

Are these sanctioning/enforcement powers effectively used?    



The question aims at assessing the effectiveness of the remedies of the regulation.    



Low risk: the relevant authority effectively uses its sanctioning powers in all the relevant cases

Medium risk: the authority's powers are not always used in all the relevant cases

High risk: the relevant authority never uses its sanctioning powers

0
Total (Mean of L-e and L-I sub-indicators)    1 out of 8

Ownership Transparency

Result: Medium Risk

This indicator assesses the transparency of data about the political affiliations of media owners as ownership transparency is a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism.  

Why?

There is no obligation for media companies to disclose their ownership structures on their respective websites or printed publications. Most of the data related to ownership was obtained through the Commercial Register at the Ministry of Justice.

There is currently no legal instrument in Lebanon that mandates for political actors to disclose their affiliation with media companies. Similarly, there is no legislation that prohibits conflict of interest to prevent political actors from holding political office while owning a media outlet. However, like all companies and business in Lebanon, media companies have to be registered at the Commercial Register. Each company profile, which includes the list of owners and the shares they hold is available for a price of LBP 6,000 (around USD 4).

In order to complete missing data, which was available neither online nor offline, all media outlets included in this study (37) were contacted – through the media outlet and through the company – with a questionnaire. 

  • Three Lebanese media outlets were actively transparent (8.1%). This means three media outlets published information on their websites or in publicly accessible reports: the state-owned Radio Liban, the Free Patriotic Movement's website Tayyar.org and the Lebanese Forces’ website. The two websites are not registered as companies, as it is not compulsory for websites to register as such. 
  • For the majority of media outlets (67.6%), data was publicly available (25 outlets out of 37) at the Commercial Register. However, the quality of the official company profiles was poor and data was often obviously outdated, with changes in ownership not recorded. 
  • Data was assessed unavailable for one media outlet (MTV). Although names of the shareholders were registered, no number of shares was available at the Commercial Register although it is required by law (see Legal Assessment). The same applies to the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese Communication Group L.G.C. SAL (owner of Al-Manar and Al-Nour). These two outlets responded to our questionnaire, but neither in their response nor on the company profile in the Commercial Register were the number of shares per shareholder made public. 
  • No company actively disguised the ownership structure, e.g. through bogus companies. However, the MOM team found out various ownership set-ups.

MOM Information Requests were sent out by email and were followed up with further emails during the course of the research. However, only eight outlets have provided detailed replies to our requests in written form, via email or through phone calls. These outlets are: Al-Manar, Al-Nour, VDL 93.3, and VDL 100.3, Al Kalima  Online, Lebanon Debate, Ya Sour, and L’Orient-Le Jour.

LOWMEDIUMHIGH

How would you assess the transparency and accessibility of data about the media ownership?

Active Transparency – 8.1%
Passive Transparency – 21.6%
Data Publicly Available – 67.6%
Data Unavailable – 2.7%
Active Disguise - 0%

Data on media owners as well as their political affiliations is publicly available and transparent.

(Active Transparency)

Code if that applies to > 75% of the sample

Data of media owners and their political affiliations are disclosed based on investigations of journalists and media activists or upon request.

(Passive Transparency, Publicly Available)

Code if that applies > 50% of the sample. 

Data on political affiliations of media owners are not easily accessible by the public and investigative journalists of activists are not successful in disclosing these data.

(Data Unavailable, Active Disguise)

Code if data is available for < 50% of the sample 

 

 

Regulatory Safeguards: Ownership Transparency

Result: High Risk

This indicator aims to assess the existence and effective implementation of transparency and disclosure provisions with regard to media ownership and/or control.

Why? 

All Lebanese companies are required to register their minutes of meetings with the Commercial Register with no specific requirements for media companies. Companies that do not register their minutes are fined for each month and/or year of delay by the Ministry of Finance and the Commercial Register, operating under the Ministry of Justice. For transfers of shares and new members, registration is not immediately required, and if a change in the management of the company (director, board of directors, chairman) is not recorded, companies are not fined. However, they cannot move on with any other procedure requiring registration before the minutes of the meeting related to the change in the management are registered. 

  • Audiovisual Media Law No. 382 of 1994 requires broadcast corporations (TV and radio) to submit their financial accounts every six months to the Ministry of Information. These accounts include the amounts or revenues arising from the corporation’s activity. Directors who refrain from submitting the company’s said reports are liable to prosecution (three to six-month prison sentence and/or LBP 10 to 30 million fine - about USD 6,600 to 20,000.  (link to legal assessment)
  • Law of the Right to Information of 2017. It enables anyone, being an individual or an entity, to obtain information and documents held by government services. The scope of the law excludes private life and military secret matters, and judicial decisions related to minors and personal status. Implementation decrees are still on hold.

For more information, read MOM Lebanon Legal Assessment.

Regulatory Safeguard Score: 

8 out of 20 - High Risk (40%). Table shows TV, radio, press, online summarized. Max. score: 5 per sector. 

Transparency ProvisionsDescriptionYesNoNAMD
Does national (media, company, tax...) law contain transparency and disclosure provisions obliging media companies to publish their ownership structures on their website or in records/documents that are accessible to the public?     The aim of the question is to check regulatory safeguard for transparency towards the citizens, the users and the public in general. 2
Does national (media, company, tax...) law contain transparency and disclosure provisions obliging media companies to report (changes in) ownership structures to public authorities (such as the media authority)?     The aim of the question is to check regulatory safeguard for accountability and transparency towards public authorities.    2
Is there an obligation by national law to disclose relevant information after every change in ownership structure?     This question aims at assessing if the law provides rules on the public availability of accurate and up-to-date data on media ownership. This is a condition for an effective transparency.     2
Are there any sanctions in case of non-respect of disclosure obligations?     This question aims at assessing if the law on media ownership transparency can be enforced through the application of sanctions.     2
Do the obligations ensure that the public knows which legal or natural person effectively owns or controls the media company?  This question aim at assessing the effectiveness of the laws that deal with media ownership transparency and if they succeed in disclosing the real owners of the media outlets. No
Total   8 out of 20

(Political) Control Over Media Outlets and Distribution Networks

Result: Medium to High Risk

This indicator assesses the risk of political affiliations and control over media and distribution networks. It also assesses the level of discrimination by politically affiliated media distribution networks. Discriminatory actions would for example include unfavourable pricing and posing barriers to media accessing the distribution channel. Political Affiliations means that the media outlet or company belongs to a party, a partisan group, a party leader or a clearly partisan person.

Why?

In Lebanon, politics and media have very close ties as the licences were often attributed in a way that reflects the diversity of political views in the country. Most of the media owners are directly or indirectly politically affiliated and allegiances and indirect affiliations shift with financial needs. This is the reason why the risk of political control of media outlets and distribution networks is assessed as high for media pluralism. For example, most of the outlets that are not directly controlled by a political party adopt editorial lines that support a political group or a strong political leader. The main groups are the pro-March 14 Alliance (whose views are reflected in (Future TV, MTV, Annahar, Al-Liwaa, El-Shark, L’Orient-Le Jour, The Daily Star, VDL 100.5, Radio Orient, Radio Liban Libre, Lebanese-Forces.com, and Janoubia) and the pro-March 8 Alliance (whose views are reflected in Al-Manar, NBN, Al-Jadeed, Al-Akhbar, Al-Binaa, and Addiyar). You can read more information about the political affiliations here.

Out of the 60 owners listed, almost one out of two is politically affiliated (47%). This involves 29 of the 37 surveyed media outlets (78.4%). 

The TV sector is the most politically affiliated, as all nine outlets have direct connections with the State, political parties, and currently active or aspiring politicians. One channel is state-owned. Six are owned or co-owned by currently active politicians, and while two TV channels do not have a direct affiliation to a political party, they are co-owned by business figures who have sought political office. As a whole, politically affiliated owners reach 100% of the audience.

The print sector comes as a close second in terms of political affiliation with nine dailies out of ten closely linked to political players. Al Mustaqbal, The Daily Star, Annahar, Al Joumhouria, L’Orient Le Jour, and Al-Akhbar have among their owners currently active Members of Parliament and the executive; Al-Binaa is owned by a political party, and Addiyar and Al-Liwaa are owned by individuals who have run for office. This represents 99% of the readership.

The radio sector is also very politicized with seven stations out of eight stations owned/controlled by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with a specific political affiliation, reaching 79.3% of the audience.

The online news is a sector where political affiliations are also very clear, as all political parties represented in Parliament have their own political website serving as a news platform. Four websites out of the 10 selected outlets have politically affiliated owners. This represents more than 1.5 million unique browsers.

Political affiliations of media owners

  • The Lebanese State (Radio Liban, Télé Liban): the State’s legal monopoly on broadcasting ended in 1994 with the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Law, making Lebanon the first country in the Middle East to establish a regulatory system for permitting private radio and television broadcasting to be both produced and distributed within its borders. 
  • The Phalange Party (Voix du Liban 100.3): ten co-owners, including eight high-ranking officials of the party, formally own the company on behalf of the actual party.
  • The Lebanese Forces (Radio Liban Libre, Lebanese-forces.com): among the 17 co-owners of the company owning Radio Liban Libre, 11 are officials of the party. The Lebanese Forces party is also the official owner and editor of the party’s website.
  • The Lebanese Communist Party (Sawt El Shaab): while the legal set-up of the radio and the licensed company does not indicate direct ownership by the Lebanese Communist Party, most shareholders and administrators are affiliated with the party and do not hide the link between the radio and the party.
  • Hezbollah (Al Nour, Al Manar): members of the board of the Lebanese Communication Group L.C.G SAL are all high-ranking Hezbollah officials, including two former Members of Parliament, Abdallah Kassir and Mohammad Haidar.
  • The Hariri Family (Radio Orient, Future TV, Al Mustaqbal, The Daily Star, and Annahar), led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, president of the Future Movement. In these different outlets, additional shareholders are close allies of the family and/or belong to the same political party. The administrations of the outlets do not have links with the party structure but with the Hariri family directly.
  • Aoun Family (OTV):  the family of the current President of the Lebanese Republic Michel Aoun, founder of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), owns 12.8% of the OTV Holding shares, and 50% of Alubnaniah lil Ilam, which owns OTV’s broadcasting license. OTV Holding is the only media company that opened shares to the public and most of the public owners are FPM affiliated.
  • Elias Bou Saab (Sawt El Mada) is an MP of the FPM and owns 99% of the radio’s shares.
  • The influence of FPM is reinforced through Tayyar.org, which is the official party website, however not officially registered as a separate company.
  • The Berri Family (NBN): members of the family of Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri appear in the ownership structure of the TV station (19.7%), alongside members of the Hamdan Family, which include close political allies of Nabih Berri, among whom his media advisor Ali Hamdan.
  • The Tuéni Family (Annahar): The family established Annahar and today holds 23% of the shares. The Tuéni family has been historically involved in Lebanese politics, and is also connected to current Education Minister Marwan Hamadé (affiliated to the Progressive Socialist Party), the brother-in-law of late Annahar CEO Ghassan Tuéni, who owns 0.15% of its shares.
  • Michel Elias Murr Family (Al Joumhouria), which is also connected to the Tuéni family (Michel Elias Murr being the grandfather of current Annahar CEO Nayla Tuéni), and to the other branches of the Murr family (owning respectively MTV and El-Nashra).
  • The Eddé Family (L’Orient Le Jour): former Minister Michel Eddé served in several cabinets, the latest were led by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the 1990s.
  • The Pharaon Family (L’Orient Le Jour): current Minister of State for Planning Michel Pharaon is a close ally of the Lebanese Forces, after years of alliance with the Future Movement.
  • The Mikati Family (Lebanon24, LBCI): Najib Mikati is an MP. He served twice as Lebanon Prime Minister in 2005 and from 2011 to 2013.
  • The Frem Family (Télé Lumière/Noursat): Neemat Frem is an MP, and son of a former Minister and MP. It is one of the main families of the Kesrwan region.
  • Abdallah Zakhem (Al Jadeed): ran for Parliament in 2018. He is known to be close to the Marada Movement.
  • Nizar Younes (Al Jadeed): ran for the 2000 elections and his brother for the 2005 elections. He is close to the FPM.
  • Ali Al Amine (Janoubia): ran for Parliament in 2018 in alliance with the Lebanese Forces on an anti-Hezbollah platform. He has a very strong political leaning.
  • William Mjalli (NBN) is the Director of former Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares’ charity foundation.
  • Hani Hammoud (Future TV) is a member of Prime Minister’s Saad Hariri staff and is affiliated to the Future Movement.
  • Mustapha El Husseini (Al-Akhbar) is a Member of Parliament, who owns with his children Sun Press S.A.L, controlling 18.8% of the shares of Akhbar Beirut S.A.L.

And while the main owners of Al-Akhbar (Ibrahim Al Amine) and Al Jadeed (Tahseen Khayat) are not formally members of any party, they are very active political players and commentators, with strong and public political leanings.

 

LOWMEDIUMHIGH
POLITICIZATION OF MEDIA OUTLETS    

What is the share of TV media owned by politically affiliated entities?

The media having <30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.     The media having <50% - >30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.  The media having >50% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.    

What is the share of Radio channels owned by politically affiliated entities?

The media having <30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.    The media having <50% - >30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation. The media having >50% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.   

What is the share of Newspapers owned by politically affiliated entities?

The media having <30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation.    The media having <50% - >30% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation. The media having >50% audience share is owned (controlled) by a specific political party, politician or political grouping, or by an owner with specific political affiliation. 

 

Political control over media distribution networks

The overall level of (political) control over media outlets and distribution networks was assessed as a low to medium risk for pluralism. A leading distribution network is defined as a network covering more than 15% of the national market.

Result: Low to Medium risk

Why?

The distribution network for print publications consists of a number of independent newspaper agencies (and sub agencies) located throughout the country that have been functioning for several years. These agencies are not exclusive to specific newspaper publications, instead they are shared among several, and often unrelated, newspaper companies, and work on a commission or subscription basis.

Radio networks distribution rely on the frequencies that are allocated by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) which is an independent public institution.

TV networks distribution rely on the frequencies that are allocated by the Council of Ministers. But given that the vast majority of households receive TV through legal or clandestine cable subscription, some cases of political discrimination have been reported. Al Jadeed was banned in the southern suburb of Beirut, a region broadly loyal to Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, after the TV channel mocked Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in a comedy program called “Doma Karasi”. Cases of TV stations being cut off in some regions because of political disagreements are not rare.

Internet Service Providers are the distribution networks behind the internet. Most of the internet distribution is controlled by the State through its contractor Ogero, which has by the most conservative estimates, over 60% of the market for Internet service provision. Private operators are allowed to compete with Ogero and one discriminatory action was recorded in Arsal where residents did not have access to the Internet for security reasons.

 

LOWMEDIUMHIGH
How would you assess the conduct of the leading distribution networks for print media? 
Leading distribution networks are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions.     At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actions.     All of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions.    
How would you assess the conduct of the leading radio distribution networks? 
Leading distribution networks are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions.     At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actions.     All of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions.    
How would you assess the conduct of the leading television distribution networks? 
Leading distribution, are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions. At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actions.  All of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions. 
How would you assess the conduct of the leading internet distribution networks? 
Leading distribution, are not politically affiliated or do not take discriminatory actions. At least one of the leading distribution networks is politically affiliated or takes occasional discriminatory actions.  All of the leading distribution networks are politically affiliated and has a record of repeated discriminatory actions. 

(Political) Control Over Media Funding

Result: Low to High

This indicator assesses the influence of the state on the functioning of the media market, focusing particularly on the risk of discrimination in the distribution of state advertisements. The discrimination can be reflected in favouritism towards political parties or affiliates of political parties in the government, or in penalisation of media criticising the government. State advertising should be understood as any advertising paid by governments (national, regional, local) and state-owned institutions and companies.

There  is  no  culture  and  practice  of  State  advertising  in  Lebanon,  hence  no  specific  rule  of  distribution  of  state  advertising. Government  institutions  have  their  public  service  announcements  aired  for  free  on  all  private  and  public  TV  stations.  Official  announcements  of  legal  and  regulatory  matters  are  also  published  in  all  newspapers,  without  discrimination.  Meanwhile,  state-owned  institutions  (Middle  East  Airlines,  Casino  du  Liban,  Ogero,  the  National  Lottery...)  have  their  advertisements  aired  for  a  fee,  but  go  through  the  advertising  agencies  similarly  to  any  private-sector  enterprise  that  wants to  advertise  in  the  media. 

Although  the  MOM  team  wasn’t  able  to  reach  any  data  on  the  share  of  State  advertising  in  the  market,  the  risk  of  control  of  the  state  over  media  funding  should  be  assessed  as  low. The  MOM  team,  however,  assessed  the  political  control  over  media  funding  as  a  high  risk  for  media  pluralism. 

Why?

LOWMEDIUMHIGH
Is the state advertising distributed to media proportionately to their audience share? No Data
State advertising is distributed to the media relatively proportionately to the audience shares of media. State advertising is distributed disproportionately (in terms of audience share) to the media.State advertising is distributed exclusively to few media outlets, which do not cover al major media outlets in the country. 
How would you assess the rules of distribution of state advertising?    
State advertising is distributed to media outlets based on transparent rules.     State advertising is distributed to media outlets based on a set of rules but it is unclear whether they are transparent.     There are no rules regarding distribution of state advertising to media outlets or these.   
IMPORTANCE OF STATE ADVERTISING    

What is the share of state advertising as part of the overall TV / Radio / Print/ online advertising market? 

VALUE: No Data

Share of state advertising is <5% of the overall market.    Share of state advertising is 5%-10% of the overall market.     Share of state advertising is > 10% of the overall market.

Regulatory Safeguards: Net Neutrality

Result: Low to Medium

Protecting net neutrality is essential to safeguarding media diversity because it guarantees equal ability to access and disseminate information, opinions, perspectives, etc. online, which is essential to media diversity in general in a connected society. As the accurate measure of media diversity is based on media consumer behavior (i.e., the total content consumers usually choose), and as more people are getting their news online where most news is now reported, online media is a significant indicator and supplier of media diversity overall. Thus, it is important that this platform not be hindered.

This indicator aims capture the landscape of legal regulation of net neutrality as well as the specific regulatory mechanisms that address net neutrality.

Why?

Although the scoring indicates a high risk for net neutrality, it mainly reflects the fact that the concept of net neutrality is not defined in the Lebanese law, and as such is not addressed at all. There is no policy or bill pending on the issue in order to protect it. In the absence of a formal law or any other form of regulation explicitly protecting net neutrality, we focus on examining how net neutrality principles are addressed. The risk is therefore assessed as medium for the following reasons:

While net neutrality is not protected, the Telecommunications Law of 2002 deals with telecommunication service distribution and Internet Service Providers’ (ISP) licensing procedures:

  • Article 19 (1) provides that licenses for basic telecom, international and mobile services are granted by decree issued by the Council of Ministers, upon recommendation of the Minister of Telecommunications, after an international public auction organized by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
  • Article 26 requires public telecom services to comply with universal service obligations that ensure a minimum level of comprehensive geographic coverage in the provision of telecommunication services.
  • Article 25 guarantees certain minimum standards of quality, including call completion rates and dial tone delays.

However, the TRA has been suspended in 2015 by then-Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb following a 2011 decision from the State Shura Council, the country’s highest administrative court. As such, the Ministry of Telecommunications controls and manages the Internet services directly by licensing ISPs, granting them access to Internet capacity, and by acting as an ISP through Ogero in parallel to the private sector. As the main operator of the fixed telecommunications network in Lebanon, Ogero has to follow some international standards and should therefore apply net neutrality as voted by the FCC.

In terms of blocking content, the Lebanese legislation is very loose in this field. While there is no prohibition of blocking access to online content as a principle, blocking access to a website requires a motivated judiciary decision, after request from official authorities and security agencies to the Ministry of Telecommunications. Only online gambling sites are blocked in Lebanon in order to preserve the monopoly granted to the National Lottery (La Libanaise des Jeux) and to Casino du Liban.  

For more information, read MOM Lebanon Legal Assessment.

Regulatory Safeguard Score:

1.5 out of 11 - High Risk (13.6%). 

Transparency ProvisionsDescriptionYesNoNAMD
Does national (media, company, tax...) law contain transparency and disclosure provisions obliging media companies to publish their ownership structures on their website or in records/documents that are accessible to the public?    This question aims to determine whether net neutrality is regulated by domestic law in any way; it also aims to reflect any agreement between countries, as in the EU and countries that are part of the Council of Europe.0
Does national law contain norms that prohibit the blocking of websites or content online?This question determines the degree to which a country’s net neutrality norms prevent blocking, one of the key components of a robust net neutrality framework1
Does national law contain norms that prohibit throttling of services or content provided online?This question determines the degree to which a country’s net neutrality norms prevent throttling, one of the key components of a robust net neutrality framework   0.5
Does national law contain norms that prohibit zero-rating and/or paid prioritiszation?This question determines the degree to which a country’s net neutrality norms prevent zero-rating (of which paid prioritiszation is a common form), one of the key components of a robust net neutrality framework 0
Where net neutrality is protected by law, does the legal framework recognize any exceptions, e.g. for reasonable network management?This question establishes when reasonable limits are placed on net neutrality protections versus other limits that may undermine its effectiveness.X
Norms that prohibit or limit zero-rating are successfully implemented: Paid prioritisation does not take place.This question aims to flesh out the extent to which paid prioritisation occurs in practice despite its prohibition in law; a number of countries with ostensibly strong zero-rating protections experience this phenomenon. This indicator may shed light on the degree of difference between the law and practices on the groundX
Norms that prohibit or limit zero-rating are successfully implemented: No other forms of zero-rating take place.Same as above0
Norms are successfully implemented: Blocking and/or throttling do not take place.This question seeks to determine how the legal framework in place to protect net neutrality operates in practice with respect to blocking and throttling 0
Are there regulatory or other entities charged with monitoring and enforcing net neutrality protections?This question highlights whether there are authorities charged with enforcing net neutrality protections X
Have sanctions been imposed for violations of net neutrality protections where these exist?This question may illustrate the extent to which violations of net neutrality norms are taken seriously as a matter of rule of law and political willX
Are the enforcement mechanisms in place to identify and respond to net neutrality violations viewed as effective?This question shows the extent to which net neutrality norms actually achieve their goals X
Total (Mean of L-e und L-I sub-indicators)

4 out of 11

What is zero-rating and why is it problematic? 

Zero-rating means the pricing policy in which Internet service providers (ISPs) supply a range of content to (particularly mobile) Internet consumers without charging for the data used - or counting it against the plan’s cap.

Why is zero-rating rating problematic? Free access to your favorite services seems like a dream, especially when data packages are relatively expensive. However, zero rating may provide an unfair advantage as it channels users to the content and services that are zero-rated at the expense of alternatives which are not zero-rated. This distorts competition and complicates business for potential new market entrants. From the perspective of public discourse, zero rating might narrow the experience of the Internet, as there are little incentives for users to venture beyond those services that are provided for free – who might then experience the Internet as a “walled garden”. Lastly, zero-rating helps transform the Internet from a permission-less environment – in which all kind of developers create innovation based on the premise that the Internet treats individual and start-ups just like major companies - into one in which developers effectively need to cooperate with ISPs before deploying their new technologies. ISPs turn into gate-keepers. These are some aspects brought forward by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

What is throttling and why is it problematic? 

Throttling is a variant of zero-rating. It occurs when a content provider pays the data charge that would otherwise be incurred by the end-user (sponsored data). Also, consumers don’t voluntarily accept a lower service quality for some content (throttling) in exchange for data not being counted.

  • Project by
    Samir Kassir Foundation
  •  
    Reporters without borders
  • Funded by
    BMZ