Transparency of data -
A bit of light, many shades of grey
For the purpose of this study, transparency is defined by financial and editorial disclosures. The information required on the media company’s finances are revenue, operating profit and any changes to capital and/or board structure. At the same time, it is acknowledged that in highly competitive markets, one cannot expect full transparency of any economic detail of a company.
Why is it important that media ownership data is available and up-to-date in the first place?
Transparency is the best tool to fight corruption and to disclose conflict of interests. In addition, detailed ownership information is indispensable for evaluating market concentration or and avoiding monopolies: when owners manage to hide behind complex corporate structures, it becomes difficult or even impossible to assess their overall influence in the media market and beyond.
There are 3 institutions the MOM team was referred to retrieve ownership data:
- The Moroccan Office for Industrial and Commercial Property (Office marocain de la propriété industrielle et commerciale [OMPIC]);
- The Tribunal of Commerce;
- The High Authority for Broadcast Communication (Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle [HACA]).
While all media outlets surveyed were registered, most of the information related to their ownership was outdated, leading to inconsistent and unverified ownership data.
Inconsistent and outdated ownership data - and the implications
The Media Ownership Monitor evaluated if and how media ownership information is available for the general public, as well as how detailed and credible it is.
- No updated roundtable publicly available : A number of the companies surveyed by the MOM do not have an updated status at the centralised online registry of the OMPIC, as some have knowingly changed and others are rumoured to have changed it. When asked to disclose this information for the broadcasting sector, the HACA refused to do so - although it is in possession of the latest updates as the outlets are required by law to submit any changes to capital structure/ownership to this regulatory authority. (LINK TO LAW)
- Opacity on finances : 16 of the 42 companies surveyed by the MOM (38%) did not disclose their financial information publicly – (revenue, operating profit, shareholders, number of shares) despite existing laws and obligations. This issue is not a peculiarity of the media sector. According to statistics from the Registry of Commerce, about 40% of companies across all sectors do not submit their balance sheets in Morocco.
- Inconsistent public and official information - whom is to trust? Of the 17 companies that replied to our request for information, three showed a discrepancy between what is publicly available and the reality of the ownership structure as told or given by the owners themselves: Telquel Media, Horizon Press and Geomedia. However, the OMPIC states that the latest information is disclosed on their platform.
In principle however, the response level, though still too low, has been much higher in Morocco than in most of the other countries where the MOM study has been conducted so far.
Online media owner score best in transparency
The transparency level of each media outlet investigated is indicated on the MOM website. In Morocco, the most responsive media outlets were the online media with 70.6% of responsiveness. Among them, 17.6% showed active transparency and 64.7% passive transparency. Officially, websites are subjected to the same laws for registration as the print sector. When it comes to transparency, the print sector showed almost no transparency (with only one exception: the outlet Les Inspirations ECO provides active transparency) and the MOM has to rely on outdated ownership data.
Data and Information related to ownership structures were accessed through the platform Direct Info.
La Vie Eco (2017). Près de 40% des entreprises ne remettent pas leur bilan au tribunal de commerce ! Accessed on 22nd October 2017.