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MAURITIUS MEDIA at a glance: 5 February 2010

05.02.2010



The whole Mauritian media, papers and commercial radios, is going through unprecedented mutations, with the expected public polemics and private conflicts. While the new landscape is hardly recognizable, the new editorial politics have not yet become obvious to the readers. There are some changes in the ownership patterns that reflect the new configuration of the economic ruling class, while the musical chair of journalists and editors may correspond more to the political flux. The tendency towards the formation of media empires and their respective moguls, a worldwide phenomenon, has led one budding mogul to predict just two large press groups within the next ten years.
While we wait for the contents and style of the new media products to become visible and effective, it may be useful to just paint a broad picture of the existing structures and their profiles, with some emphasis on recent changes.

The "Le Mauricien Group", made up mainly of the only afternoon daily paper "Le Mauricien", the Sunday "WeekEnd", and the "WeekEnd Scope", is still very much a family concern centered round the Delaitre and Rivet families. Their share of the market has been rapidly dwindling, and their influence has followed the same downward curve as the traditional MMM sphere. The new editor-in-chief of the daily is Gaetan Seneque, and they have lost Gilbert Ahnee to the L'Express group, Jean Clement Cangy through retirement, and Gerard Cateaux to the "Le Dimanche", which is now part of a new up-and-coming group called "Yukondale", after having been owned by Teeren Appasamy. Sydney Selvon, who used to be the editor-in-chief of "Le Militant", then "Le Mauricien", also writes the political pages of "Le Dimanche". The strong influences in the present Le Mauricien group are now mainly Patrick Michel, Josie Lebrasse, and of course Jacques Rivet himself. Following the departure of G.Cateaux, the "WeekEnd" newspaper still does not have a new editor-in-chief.

The "La Sentinelle" group has recently gone through a re-branding exercise, with a new "organigramme" for its various titles: Jean Claude de L'Estrac is still the Big Boss (Executive Director) of the group, with Ariane Cavalot de L'Estrac as the Director of Publications; and Raj Meetarbhan (News), Gilbert Ahnee (Views), and Tooria Prayag (English), and Rabin Bhujun (Sunday) sharing editorial responsibilities for the various titles. The other title of the group, 5-Plus Dimanche, is run by Darlmah Naeck. Gilbert Ahnee will also be active in Radio One, along with Finlay Salesse. The group also has an on-line publication, Lexpress.mu.

The "Le Defi Group" is still run by the Director/ Editor-in-Chief Eshan Kodarbux, although 40% of the group is owned by MediaMetrix (BAI) through Media Alliance. Radio Plus is co-owned by BAI (40%), F.Jaddoo (Ehshan Kodarbux's brother-in-law) 41%, and Eshan Kodarbux 19%. The group publishes Le Defi Plus (+ Sexo and Turf), News on Sunday, Hebdo, Bollywood Masala, and it has an on-line publication: DefiMedia and is planning a Web TV. The "Le Defi Group" really took off as a potential press empire through its past close association with the other empire known as the "Sun Trust".
The co-ownership of the Le Defi Group by E.Kodarbux and the BAI will become increasingly difficult to manage as the BAI has a media project of its own: already through its subsidiary Yukondale, whose CEO is S.P.Sing (previously from Le Matinal), it owns "The Star", "Le Dimanche", "Impact News", as well as the on-line NewsNow. Yukondale is projecting a daily newspaper soon, and this may explain the temporary parking of journalistic heavyweights in "Le Dimanche".

As expected, all these permutations and combinations have produced some juicy polemics: mainly between the L'Express and Le Defi, the two groups that are striving towards hegemony in the media field. The L'Express have tried to expose Kodarbux as a pawn of the BAI empire, while Kodarbux has pointed out that the L'Express is under the influence of other economic groups like Rogers, FAIL, while the ownership of Radio One includes those two above companies, as well as Rose-Hill Transport, AND BAI itself, through one of the directors, Farook Hossen.
The political aspect of this polemic is very much centered round de L'Estrac's open preference for a MMM-Labour alliance, while one would expect the BAI (and possibly old Sun Trust) influence in the Defi group to dread such an alliance.

The polemic round the press equally involves the Lalyans Sosyal government, in its arbitrary and politically motivated use of government paid publicity to favour some papers like "Le Matinal", and punish others like "L'Express". The latter has even lodged a court case against the government for this discrimination.

RS, 5 February 2010