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Atlantic Radio Reaches for Urban Elite

Station carves out a niche for itself in Morocco’s growing radio landscape

CASABLANCA, Morocco — Atlantic Radio FM, owned by the Eco-Medias group, seems to have found its niche by targeting the upper crust of Morocco’s main cities.

As part of a group that owns two daily newspapers the “l’Economiste” and “Assabah,” a weekly publication in Burkina Faso, “l’Economiste du Faso,” a printing house, and the École supérieure de journalisme et de communication journalism school, it seems only natural for Atlantic Radio’s format to revolve around economy and business.

Based in Casablanca, the station, which broadcasts to 21 locations on the same number of frequencies, is upgrading its facilities and revamping its programming strategy.

As part of the overhaul, in November 2013 the group hired Sébastien Nègre — a veteran radio journalist with experience in Tunisia, Mali, Canada and France — as the station’s editor in chief and program director. Catering to Morocco’s 30- to 50-year-old urban elite, the station today has approximately 200,000 listeners, located primarily in the larger cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Meknès, Fès, Agadir, Tangier and Marrakech.

Faïçal Tadlaoui in the main studio presents “Les Experts.” 

Photos by Jarfi Eco-Médias

With the goal of “energizing its programming and increasing its audience,” the station has introduced innovative programming such as “Les Experts” (The Experts), which offers advice to listeners on various problems and conflicts in their lives.

Atlantic Radio also covers important cultural events, including the Salon du livre de Casablanca (Casablanca Book Fair) and themes like sports economics during the Hassan II tennis tournament. Other shows on tap include “Les Décodeurs,” which analyzes current affairs. In the evening the station airs “Disque d’or,” a rock, blues and jazz program followed by a show featuring Moroccan music.

According to Nègre, part of the station’s positioning strategy is to allow listeners to participate in the discussion, to give their point of view on current issues. This, he says, results in increased audience interaction, loyalty and goes beyond just the news. In addition to revisiting its program lineup, Atlantic Radio, which attracts the likes of banks, restaurants and airlines as advertisers, is in the process of modernizing its image and improving overall broadcast quality.

The Moroccan radio landscape is still in its youth with private radio broadcasting only having been authorized in 2006 and there are still no of community radio stations. Like Atlantic Radio, some 15 other private stations are working to captivate listeners in a land where today less than 40 percent of the country’s population tunes in to radio.

Adil Rami in Control Room A during the show “Nawadahlyk” Boasting 34 full-time employees of whom 21are journalists, this bilingual — Arabic and French — station uses the synergy between the different holdings within the Eco-Medias group to put its best foot forward. It also partners with Radio France International and Monte Carlo Doualiya for the exchange of international news.

“We are considering producing a combined Atlantic/Monte Carlo Doualiya broadcast,” hinted Nègre, aware of the potential of the station, which can also be accessed worldwide via streaming.

Atlantic Radio has a main studio, a smaller studio dedicated to the production and recording of short information breaks, two recording booths and two control rooms.

The studios are fitted with beyerdynamic headphones and Shure SM7mics. The switching system allows the station to shift between studios and to manage various broadcasting aspects such as the control of muted mics and audio signal delivery all the way to satellite transmission.

The station also uses Netia Radio-Assist 8.2 in its studios. “The most recent version of Radio-Assist 8.2 offered quite a bit of improvement as regards the management of our programs and supplies fluid communication with the RCS Selector for music scheduling and RamCom for ad management,” said Rachid Mounaouar, information technology director for Eco-Médias.

Mounaouar, who has been with the group since 2007, is streamlining the station’s technical facilities. Audio processing is an important area for Atlantic Radio, he says, explaining that they decided to upgrade to an Omnia.9 processor, leaving in place the previous processor as a backup.

“Each of the broadcasting sites is equipped with an Audemat Digiplexer 2/4 and we are extending the audio processing to produce sound quality that meets our audience’s expectations,” he said.

A small robot provides database content backup. It also edits the log file after each operation and informs the system administrator via SMSs or email in the case of a problem.

Atlantic Radio’s audio — from the launch of the station in 2006 up to February 2010 — was stored on DVDs in duplicate using the Netia Radio-Assist archiving solution.

(L-R) Director Rachid El Wali, artist Hicham El Wali and Chourouk
Gharib in the main studio presenting the program “Nawadahlyk.”
More recent material, from February 2010 to present, is managed by the station’s LaCie 5big NAS Pro storage system, a solution consisting of five hard drives of 2 TB each, forming a RAID5 system with a spare disk in case one of the disks crashes. The station is planning to transfer the existing DVDs to the 5big NAS Pro.

Public-service broadcaster Société Nationale de Radio et Télévision hosts 17 of the 21 Atlantic Radio transmission sites, while telecom operator Meditel manages the other four Ecreso transmitters, which are used for the smaller remote cities, such as Taroudant and Tafraout.

Atlantic Radio also broadcasts via the Atlantic Bird 7 satellite. In case of a satellite problem, the station relies on a solution that switches to ADSL with a tiny offset of 5–6 seconds. A playlist packed with 18 hours of songs and jingles takes the relay if both the satellite and ADSL fail.

“We constantly log our programs,” said Mounaouar. “The Haute Autorité de la Communication et de l’Audiovisuel requires us to have a minimum of 365 days of broadcasts available at all times.”

Atlantic Radio, part of one of Morocco’s main media groups, appears well placed to conquer an affluent audience and to position itself as the main radio station in the business and economic sectors.

Emmanuelle Pautler reports on the industry for Radio World from Paris.