The closure of Tele Liban raises concerns about the future of the station and its ability to continue serving as a public broadcaster.
Tele Liban, the country’s public broadcaster, has been shut down this weekend. Established in 1977, Tele Liban is one of the oldest stations in the region. However, due to a prolonged financial crisis, the station’s approximately 200 employees have not received their salaries and benefits for almost 22 months. This dire situation has forced the caretaker government to shut down the station, leaving both the employees and the audience in a state of distress.
Tele Liban’s closure is a direct consequence of Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019, which has had severe repercussions on the country’s media industry. The Lebanese pound has lost nearly 98% of its value against the US dollar, leading to rampant inflation. As a result, salaries in the local currency have become insufficient to meet the rising costs of living, plunging many public sector employees, including those at Tele Liban, into financial hardship.
The crisis is a culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the Lebanese political elite. Ministries across the country are grappling with employee absences, as the wage issue has created a challenging environment for workers. Tele Liban, being a public broadcaster, has been hit particularly hard, with its employees left unpaid for an extended period.
In an attempt to address the wage issue, the minister of information Ziad Makary engaged in talks with union representatives. However, despite assurances that progress was being made, the closure of Tele Liban indicates that a satisfactory resolution has not yet been reached. Minister Makary, while acknowledging the closure, has stated that the station will resume broadcasting at an unspecified date. Until then, regular TV programs have been discontinued.
Lebanon’s media industry is predominantly dominated by the private sector, with channels often owned by or aligned with political parties. This situation sets Tele Liban apart.
The closure of Tele Liban is not the first time the station has faced challenges due to financial constraints. In December, the government’s failure to reach an agreement over the payment of broadcasting rights resulted in Tele Liban not airing the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This decision sparked political resentment and further highlighted the financial struggles faced by the station. The inability to broadcast a highly anticipated and globally watched event like the World Cup only added to the frustration and disappointment of the Lebanese audience.
While Minister Makary has expressed his intention to resume broadcasting, the uncertainty surrounding the station’s reopening date leaves many questions unanswered. The financial crisis in Lebanon shows no signs of immediate resolution, and unless concrete measures are taken to address the root causes, the fate of Tele Liban remains uncertain.