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News/Journalism/Media

Nissa TV: Minding the Gender Gap in Media

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post UK.

After years of hard work and preparation, a feminist TV channel dedicated to promoting gender equality in Euro-Mediterranean countries is finally being launched.

Nissa TV (or ‘Women TV’) is the brainchild of Lila Lefèvre, a prominent European journalist and the current president of Euromed Audiovisual Productions, a non-profit association funded by the EU and responsible for developing media sectors in countries within the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

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The launch date for Nissa TV is set for March next year and the channel will broadcast to more than 20 European countries as well as 15 in the Mediterranean. Following in the footsteps of broadcasters such as Heya TV, the project faces some stark challenges. Combating the objectification of women in mass media and raising awareness of women’s rights and issues in Euro-Mediterranean countries will be no easy feat, but Lila remains confident.

I spoke to her to find out more about what she hopes to achieve with Nissa TV.

First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to a quick interview, you must be a busy woman! How did the idea of creating Nissa TV come about? I understand it’s been in the works for quite a while?

Nissa TV is more than just a project for me. It’s a dream that I’ve had for three years now, which was formed as a result of my work as a journalist and through my travels in Europe and the Arab world. I realise that a lot of people, not only in such regions but everywhere, tend to caricature and misunderstand each other. However, I’ve found that women are more frequently targeted. Many seem to believe in crude stereotypes surrounding women – and men. These kinds of images often show women in southern Euro-Mediterranean countries wearing the niqab while those in the North wear thongs. Apparently, women haven’t the right to drive in the South, but can pose naked on the bonnet of a car in the North!

How do you think Nissa TV will differ from other TV channels aimed at women, such as Heya TV, which broadcasts in the Arab World? And where will Nissa TV’s offices be based?

Nissa TV will be the first Euro-Mediterranean TV channel that directly promotes equality between men and women and will work to reinforce the role of women within countries in the UfM. These include all 28 countries located in the European Union as well as southern Mediterranean countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Nissa TV will broadcast its programmes in three languages: French, English and Arabic. The channel will be available to watch through cable, satellite and will also be available to stream on the internet.

The channel’s studios will be based in Brussels and Tunis, but we will have correspondents reporting from many capital cities.

What sorts of programmes will Nissa TV broadcast? And how do you think they will attract viewers?

News from around the globe and in the Euro-Mediterranean region will be discussed from a female’s point of view. The channel will offer an overview of economic, cultural and social issues, but so-called “feminine” matters to do with children, health, sexuality, fashion, beauty, and cooking will be examined and presented from a completely different perspective compared to that of other publications and TV channels. A new approach will be required here. Girls’ education, the health and sexuality of women as viewed by other women, the diktats of fashion, beauty criteria through ages and cultures; all of these topics will be discussed through exchanges between women from UfM countries.

I believe the programmes will be eclectic, fresh and colourful because we’ll have so much to focus on: women in power, women as victims, women of resistance, women in wars and conflicts, the evolution of a woman’s place in society, the list goes on!

Do you believe the bulk of your audience will be women, or do you think your programming will cater to men as well?

Nissa TV will strive to appeal to men and women of all ages, of all social classes and to all those living in UfM countries: an audacious challenge, which will require a programming schedule as demanding as it will be diverse! And actually, our first target is not women but men! We hope to inform and raise awareness, as well as educate men on women’s issues, gender equality and much more.

What do you think have been the main challenges so far in setting up Nissa TV? Do you think you have overcome them? What obstacles do you think you could potentially encounter in the future?

The biggest challenge we have had to face was to convince prominent political figures to support us. Baroness Catherine Ashton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the first women to believe in us. The first man who supported us is Charles Goerens, a Member of the European Parliament. He is a great person whose support I truly welcome. And I cannot forget Moncef Marzouki, the President of Tunisia who has facilitated all legal and administrative procedures.

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The second challenge we have faced is money.
And any future challenges we face will be similar to those that a business would encounter while in its infancy.

(Pictured right: Lila and Charles Goeren at a conference this year for the launch of Nissa TV. Image from: http://charlesgoerens.dp.lu/)

How is Nissa TV being funded?

Needless to say, launching a TV channel requires considerable technical and financial resources. The European Commission co-funds Nissa TV via EED, the European Endowment for Democracy, while Scandinavian countries such as Finland are also helping us. We receive funding through the private sector and of course, through sponsorship and advertising. I have to say that we have had a lot of promises of funding, but they have not yet been followed through. That is why I appeal here to institutions and foundations working for the empowerment of women to support Nissa TV.

Will the staff running Nissa TV be primarily women? If so, why?

We couldn’t fight sexism and at the same time be sexist ourselves! The staff of Nissa TV will consist of men and women; the only criterion needed to join is motivation and skills.

Finally, if you could sum up Nissa TV in one sentence, what would it be?

Nissa TV aims to change international television, and become a channel for women all around the world.

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