Beur FM, agent of integration or ghettoisation?

Bridget Knapper (University of Westminster, postgraduate student, MA French & Francophone Studies - )

1. Introduction

‘Notre radio n’est pas un ghetto, mais une fenêtre ouverte. Notre rôle est de dépassioner et rassembler sous la bannière de la République (1)

Fares Bouchia, Beur FM

Beur FM is one of the leading radio stations in France, broadcasting to a Franco-Maghrebin audience. This study will look at the role it plays in the integration of listeners from a Maghrebin immigrant background, examining whether it achieves its objectives of acting as a bridge between cultures, giving points of access to French society. Two case studies will illuminate the editorial policy in practice and look at how the audience is addressed. An observation will be made of how it strikes the balance between reflecting the cultural background of its listeners and maintaining a secular approach.

The term ‘beur’ will be examined and the history and context of the establishment of Beur FM and its predecessor Radio Beur. Throughout the study reflections will be made on the French republican model of integration and the multi-cultural approach adopted by Britain and the United States.

The implications for the station as a commercial, independent organisation will also be assessed.

1.1 Context

This study was undertaken at the time of the 20th anniversary of the ‘Marche pour l’égalité et contre le racisme’ commonly known as the ‘Marche des Beurs’, which, after three months of marching through France, arrived in Paris on 3rd December 1983. This march brought the second generation of Maghrebins to national attention. They were claiming the right to be seen as citizens and not as immigrants. It seemed a good point from which to reflect on the progress of this population toward integration using Beur FM as a point of reference. The recent launch of Beur TV by Nacer Kettane, the PDG of Beur FM gave additional interest to the study of Beur FM as a commercial media phenomenon.

1. 2. Carrying out the study

1.2.1. Methodology

This study of Beur FM was carried out through:

1.2.2. Limitations

Establishing contact with the radio station was problematic, perhaps not surprising for what is a small operation with few administrative staff.

The drawbacks to this and the limitations I faced were that with a very limited amount of time available, I did not have information on the full staff list and was reliant on my first meeting with the Director to set up further interviews for me. This resulted in my not having interviewed any female presenters or female editorial staff.

Not being able to canvas the opinions of listeners via the website (albeit a certain type of listener) and the lack of existing data on audience composition, meant that I had to make an assessment of listener feedback through listeners comments made on the phone-in programmes and from the reported results of a previous audience survey which was carried out by the station.

1.2.3. Questions about the approach

There is a question as to whether my approach is permissible in the first place. A problem of post-colonial studies is the danger around treating a certain population as a subject. One can fall into the trap of treating a population as a homogenous group and deny the agency of individuals within it.

The legitimacy of asking how far this population is integrated is called into question by not only writers on the subject, but by the radio staff and listeners themselves. Their point is that as people who have been born in France and who have French nationality, it is not a question of whether they are integrated or not. They are de facto part of French society. This is explored further in the main findings.

2. Findings

2.1. What’s in a name?

Given the connotations of the word ‘beur’ there may be preconceptions that one may have today towards media phenomena using the term in its title. ‘Beur’ has associations with a certain time, place and type of individual. It is now over twenty years old and is a word that was created through the form of slang called ‘verlan’, which inverts the syllables of a word. Beur is a distortion of the word ‘arabe’ and is said to be more the product of the large estates surrounding Paris than associated with other regions in France. A Beur denotes someone of working class North African immigrant parents, who was born or at least grew up in France with French schooling. The name was originally used as an auto-designation, precisely to distance them from being labelled ‘arabe’. The word ‘beur’ was taken on by the media and with time came to ghettoise this population, as observed by Azouz Begag,

‘Beur pour moi c’était un gâteau, maintenant c’est un ghetto.’ (4)

This history of the term ‘beur’ crystallises the condition of this population in France, striving for an identity as French citizens, but being constantly grouped into an amalgam and seen as variously arab, immigrant, beur or more recently as Muslim.

For Nacer Kettane, founder of Beur FM and one of the original founders of its predecessor station Radio Beur,

‘Beur renvoie à la fois à un espace géographique et culturel, le Maghreb, et à un espace social, celui de la banlieue et du prolétariat en France’ (5)

Radio Beur was set up in 1981 before the word ‘beur’ had been over-used in the media. Although the usage of the word is now questionable, at the time it held out new possibilities for this population born out of immigration. The second and third generations who grew up between the culture of their parents and that of French society, not belonging to either, could articulate an identity for themselves through the word ‘beur’.

‘Le mot beur peut être considéré comme une passerelle entre la culture orale dite populaire et la culture dominante.’ (6)

It is interesting to note that more recently Nacer Kettane has used this bridging imagery to describe the descendants of immigrants and the aims of his new television station Beur TV,

‘Notre télévision a une ligne éditoriale unique au monde, puisqu’elle va permettre aux enfants de l’immigration d’être un trait d’union entre les deux rives de la Méditerranée.’ (7)

2.2. History of the station

Giving this second generation representation in the media was one of the original aims of Radio Beur. Established at the time of the liberalisation of the French airwaves introduced by the then new Socialist government under François Mitterrand, Radio Beur claimed a space for this population in the new audio-visual landscape. It was also the time when laws were relaxed on the rights of foreigners to create associations and the Socialists adopted a more multi-cultural approach. This allowed ethnic minorities to organise and express themselves within their communities, which had previously been resisted by governments of left and right as it went against the French republican tradition of universalism and the emphasis on the identity of the citizen as separate from one’s ethnic or religious origins.

Derderian (1995) sees the demise of Radio Beur in 1992 as a result of a failed attempt at a French form of multi-culturalism. Although committed to universalist principles in its broadcasting licence application and to the project of integration, the station was riven with internal tensions and was accused of only addressing a certain ethnic group. There was a charge that Radio Beur favoured Kabyles (Berbers from Kabylia, an area of Algeria). One of its members, Kamel Amara left the station over these tensions,

‘Most of the programs were in Berber, which the Arabic-speaking listeners didn’t necessarily understand. I wanted to play a little of everything: Arabic, Kabyle, and Anglo-Saxon music. Sometimes, by impulse, I only played Arabic music to show that although I’m Kabyle I also listen to Arabic music ….. It was at Radio Beur that I discovered that even within our own community there could be an anti-Arab racism.’ (8)

Beur FM set up in 1992 and broadcast concurrently with Radio Beur for a few months. Unlike its predecessor, Beur FM was established as a professional, commercial station with no state subsidy. It defined itself in its broadcasting licence application as a ‘true integration medium’, proposing to advance the integration process by upholding republican values of tolerance and mutual understanding, treating all cultures equally. This study will examine if it achieves this in practice.

2.3. Beur FM

2.3.1. Background

With headquarters in Paris, Beur FM broadcasts to 11 regions in France through 11 different frequencies (9). The same programmes (10) are aired on all the frequencies. Toulouse and Rouen broadcast their own material for 4 hours of the day. With the aid of satellite Beur FM broadcasts to the Maghreb and through the website it can be listened to all over the world. Indeed some presenters reported getting messages from people of Maghrebin origin living in Japan and Canada. This demonstrates that Beur FM is acting as a cultural reference point for the Maghrebin diaspora and is an example of cultural products breaking territorial boundaries.

2.3.2. Audience

Audience figures per day for all the regions in France have been reported as 530,000 (11). France has a population of people of North African origin of about 6 million (12). In terms of composition of the listeners, there are no statistics to reflect the percentages of different age groups, gender or national origin. The station sees its remit as serving all generations, not just the Beur generation who might be anything between 15 and 35 years old, but also their parents and grandparents. Beur FM does have a young image in both its sound and the visual presentation on the website. Whilst it makes an attempt to have a broad appeal at the peak listening times of the day 7am–9am, its core audience is probably in the 15-35 age group.

2.3.3. Language

The station positions itself as French speaking and states:

‘Sa langue d'expression est le français, même si des émissions en langue arabe et en langue berbère ponctuent ses programmes.’ (13)

The French language was seen as the main tool of integration after the French Revolution for the new Republic. Regional dialects were suppressed in favour of a national language, which was thought to unify its citizens. It is certainly true that in order to take part in French society, knowledge of the language is essential and the majority of Beur FM’s programmes are in French as opposed to Tamazight (the Berber language) or Arabic. French is also the language which the listeners are likely to have in common, given that those Tamazight or Arabic speakers will have different dialects.

2.4. Editorial policy – ‘radio communautaire’

According to its mission statement, Beur FM claims to be a secular, independent, community radio station, which has a generalist programme. By that it means that it is not specialist, it is not just a music station for example, but has a wide range of programmes. Its promotional material states that:

‘BEUR FM se situe dans un espace franco-maghrébin à partir de populations définitivement enracinées en France, quelles que soient les générations, quelle que soit la "couleur culturelle" : arabe, berbère, juive, pied-noir ... Outre la communauté maghrébine, la radio s'adresse également à l'ensemble des minorités composant la mosaïque de la France. Tout projet émanant d'une minorité doit être porteur de cette universalité dans laquelle tous doivent se reconnaître. Ainsi, la programmation et les actions développées par BEUR FM sont porteuses de repères d'identifications qui permettent de rassembler un auditoire plus large.’ (14)

It is quite explicit in emphasising the French republican values of universality. It makes the distinction that whilst it may be a ‘radio communautaire’ it is not a ‘radio communautariste’. Everyone I interviewed was very clear about making the distinction. That although their point of reference is a population of people who have come from Mediterranean immigration, the location of activity is France and their approach is an open one, reporting on national and world events and not just addressing what is happening inside a certain ethnic group. It is interesting to observe that this then is translated in practice and is not just a form of words aimed at securing the broadcasting licence from the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel. This reflects the core values of the station instilled by tight organisational structure and a strong leadership and management, but also probably reflects the staff’s own personal positions.

The mission statement embodies the French notion of pluralism as the idea of the melting pot, where people of different origins are united, not by acknowledging their differences, but through what they have in common. This is a distinct contrast to the two other generalist radio stations in France which broadcast to a Maghrebin audience. Radio Orient is thought to be funded and influenced by the Lebanon and Radio Mediteranée is the more militant of the three and openly pro-Palestinian (15).

2.4.1. Creating visibility

The Director, M. Nait-Balk described the station’s editorial line as ‘information de proximité’, meaning that it would report on national and international events, but with a more precise angle. For example, if the national issue was a rise in taxes, Beur FM would investigate the impact of this on the low-waged, as this would reflect the average economic position of most of their listeners. The national media might report on the natural catastrophes and dramatic incidents of Algeria and Morocco, but Beur FM would approach the events in more detail.

Beur FM like its predecessor Radio Beur, was set up because of a lack of representation of this population in the national media and at a time when demands were being made by the Beur generation (that is to say the second and third generation of immigrants of Maghrebin origin) for rights as equal citizens, equal access to employment, decent housing etc. The Director commented that it was because the French mainstream had ignored this part of French society that it was necessary to create Beur FM ‘pour combler le vide’, reporting on events and how they would be affected by them and giving them the opportunity to express their views in relation to the society they are living in.

2.4.2. Towards integration?

When asked about the progress, which he thought this population had made towards integration in the last 20 years since the ‘Marche des Beurs’, he challenged the validity of the question.

‘Notre élément c’est la société française. C’est elle qui nous a façonné. Nous sommes nés en France, formés en France. La différence c’est que nous avons un autre regard à cause de l’héritage de nos parents.’

This response is a typically French republican response, a refusal to be defined by one’s origins, or as a minority, and, quite rightly, an insistence on being seen as French. Zaïr Kedadouche echoes this attitude,

‘On est nés ici, et vous voulez qu’on s’intègre.....À quoi ? Pourquoi ? Comment ? Aujourd’hui, la France, c’est aussi nous, les Beurs.’ (16)

There wasn’t a problem of integration M. Nait-Balk contested, as people were engaged in French life, children went to school, adult workers participated economically. The problem was one of visibility. Today with the 4th generation of Maghrebins of immigrant origin, they are still not being represented in the media, in higher levels in politics and public life and in senior levels in business. Rather than see it as a problem of integration, he felt it was more a problem of discrimination and the ‘regard’ of established society towards people of Maghrebin origin. Listeners to the phone-in programme on the theme of integration also raised the point that if someone of Maghrebin origin were to change their name on a C.V, to make it sound French then they would be more likely to get a job interview.

Beur FM does not just employ people of North African origin. Three members of the editorial team are ‘Français de souche’. The remaining four are third or fourth generation children of immigrants.

Beur FM employs 26 staff. The average age of the staff is estimated at 30. 35-40% of the staff are women, with a number of female presenters. Out of 7 members of the editorial team, 2 are women.

2.4.3. Audience relationship

The language, which all the staff used when outlining this position, and nearly all of them did, was very measured. There is a conscious policy as part of the editorial line not to treat the listeners as victims. The word racism was not mentioned but presented as ‘problems of discrimination’ or ‘social cohesion’ or ‘a lack of visibility’. This also partly reflects the different approaches to integration between the French and the Anglo-Saxon models. Historically the French have been reluctant to acknowledge cultural diversity, believing that the sort of multi-cultural approach adopted by Great Britain and the United States further segregates ethnic minorities. The French republican values of secularism and individuality have been the key concepts used by governments of left and right to create French citizens, whereas the emphasis in Britain and the United States has been to acknowledge cultural difference and to measure the participation of members of ethnic minorities in society by monitoring recruitment processes and access to public services. However it is interesting to note that at this time, there are suggestions by the Chirac government of introducing some form of positive discrimination or affirmative action, whilst at the same time in Britain there has been criticism by a leading anti-racist campaigner, Kenan Malik (17) on the validity of the multi-cultural approach.

2.5. Integrator or segregator?

The position from which the audience is addressed is crucial in terms of the role of the station as integrator or segregator. Two examples of the change to the structure of certain programmes illuminate this issue.

2.5.1 Case study - ‘Rendez-vous de la rédaction’

The main editorial programme ‘Rendez-vous de la rédaction’ provides the first example and consists of two parts. The first ’L’Invité de Beur FM’ invites guests to discuss a certain issue and is then followed by the ‘Forum des auditeurs’ where listeners can ring in and put questions to the guests themselves. The ‘Forum des auditeurs’ had previously been unstructured and was a free-form slot where people could ring in on any subject they wanted to. This resulted in listeners voicing problems or sounding off about issues they disagreed with, but with no element of solution or resolution. Listeners often voiced problems of identity, of being from Kabylia, for example, and the problems they experienced there, or of being from Algeria and of the problems they are experiencing in France. Ahmed El Keïy, the editor and presenter of the programme described the condition of listeners as one of ‘mal-être’ and how this sort of interaction was a feature of many community radio stations, with very little budget to make programmes. The airwaves were very often given over to listeners to say what they wanted and to make the shows themselves. This often results in a closed environment where members of a community are talking to each other with no element of looking forward or of social integration.

On joining Beur FM, Ahmed El Keïy reviewed the format of the programme and introduced a more defined structure using experts to discuss themes such as the lack of representation of people of Maghrebin origin as electoral candidates, the media in wartime, the lives of women of the south Mediterranean, ‘islamophobie’, ‘judéophobie’, multi-culturalism and secularity. The ‘Forum des auditeurs’ is now linked to the first emission and listeners have the opportunity of responding to the comments of the guest. Now that the programme sheds light on actual developments in France and elsewhere in the world, it enables the listeners to express themselves within a constructive framework and as citizens. It now offers a means of active participation instead of the feeling of isolation caused by expressing nostalgia and frustration and helps to equip people with a means of navigating the society in which they live rather than looking back, meeting the key aim of its mission statement.

The main criteria that govern the editor’s choice of themes for discussion on the programmes are quality and honesty. He does not have an idea of an average listener, feeling that this would be too demagogic. Instead his aim is to create a programme, which could appear on any quality radio station. Trained as a professional journalist with ten years of experience in the press and media, he says he is governed by journalistic principles.

The media agencies France Presse and Reuters are used as sources for news and for themes of the programmes as well as the daily papers in France, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Topics, which have been covered on the programmes are the Israel/Palestinian conflict, the Iraq war. In an edition on violence and terrorism an expert was invited to discuss and to define terrorism. A journalist from Al Jazira was invited to talk about the media in wartime.

Editorial balance is aimed for in all of the programmes with a non-partisan approach. During the elections all the main political parties were invited to present their views. The success of this balanced approached is evidenced by the increase in requests the station now receives from politicians and personalities wanting to appear on its programmes.

2.5.2. Case study – ‘L’après M’

The second example is from one of the music programmes, which at one stage had a formula for the type of music it would play. During 60 minutes of air time 80% of the songs played would be ‘variété maghrébine’ and 20% would be ‘variété internationale’ (18). The formula is no longer adhered to not least because of the difficulty of categorisation. With many raï artists collaborating with hip hop, rap and RnB artists the definitions are no longer as distinct. Cheb Mami, for example sings in Arabic in collaboration with Corneille singing in French. Khaled sings one of his hits in Arabic over a French instrumentation. Beur FM reflects this innovation in music of Maghrebin origin or influence.

Presenter Rachid Bentaleb has French and Moroccan parents. He grew up listening to Michael Jackson, disco and funk as well as raï and for him the programming of the playlist is about reflecting all these influences and not about certain quotas. He is conscious of the segregating effect of playing just raï music for an Algerian audience, oriental music for an Egyptian and Tunisian audience or Moroccan music. He sees his audience as being between 15 and 25 years old and of different backgrounds. He acknowledges that they are interested in a range of musical influences and styles. They are also likely to be listening regularly to over 4 different radio stations in a week (19). They may listen to Skyrock, a station dedicated to rap music or to Fun for dance and pop music. Rachid sees a key role for Beur FM in playing a range of music styles which would appeal to the young age group. This would give the station a niche market in that there would be less need for listeners to change stations so often to hear particular types of music. He is aware that this might alienate the older generations but feels that the future for Beur FM is in the 15-30 age group and that other radio stations cater to the ‘musique du pays’ of the older generations.

The fastest growing section of French popular music is in North African influenced sounds. Indeed Beur FM was a partner of Universal in the production and promotion of the compilation album Hip Hop Raï (20). Universal acknowledged that Beur FM had the target audience for the album. There is soon to be a Raï/ RnB compilation. These forms of urban music are popular with youth, because they often originate from the margins of society and reflect a non-conformist approach. The content of the songs deals with problems of living on the social margins, whatever their ethnic origin and the search for identity experienced by all young people. The members of the highest selling French rap group IAM all come from a background of immigration as do Sniper, the rap group which have been recently prosecuted by the French Government for their song criticizing the Republic. Given the dominance of American and international recording labels/artists in these musical genres, it is quite likely that Beur FM will feature more French sounding music than the national music stations.

Beur FM is well placed to benefit from the cutting edge of music developments, despite being a small station with few resources. This depends on it projecting the right image and being clear about its target audience. Rachid is conscious of the station’s history and image of being a ‘ghetto’, of its tendency to target Arab and Kabyle listeners. He sees the way forward as making a clear choice to target the younger audience. In the last year the station has done a lot of work on its image, redesigning the look of the website and recording jingles and signature music samples.

All of the music programmes during the week are of a general mix of styles, but with more representation of raï-fusion, oriental and African influenced sounds than mainstream radio stations. There are however music programmes at the weekend dedicated to the Kabyle hit parade, together with programmes on Berber culture in the Kabyle language. Only about 1% of the programming is non-French.

2.6. Radio laïque

Acknowledging the listeners’ cultural heritage on the one hand and maintaining an open, thematic and universal approach in its programming, need not necessarily be at odds with one another. Beur FM claims to be a secular station, so it might come as a surprise to see a special Ramadan page on the website and programmes entitled ‘Connaître l’Islam’. However, it sees this as part of its role as a public information service providing information to people on the subject whether they are practising Muslims or not. Its approach to secularity is to acknowledge the existence of multiple faiths, giving insight into religious and cultural practices without promoting or proselytising. The special programme featured an expert who outlined the beliefs and practices of Islam. The Ramadan web page gave the times of sunrise and sunset in each of the major towns in France, so that those who wanted to fast could do so. It did not, however, broadcast the call to prayer. It would be interesting to discover what trans-generational effect this may have had on families. For young people who do not adopt the practices of their parents or grandparents, this may have offered an opportunity for them to further understand their family’s culture. For the older people, the acknowledgement by the station of their religion, may serve as a means of their accessing the station and thereafter being introduced to its other programmes.

An interesting observation was that during Ramadan, many listeners who rang in to the phone-in programmes would preface their requests or comments by wishing other listeners a ‘bon-Ramadan’. This may just have been a seasonal salutation rather than denoting particular religious adherence. Indeed the Ramadan page on the website reflected a festive aspect to Ramadan, (rather than for example the penitential character which Christians associate with Lent) giving details of evening concerts and festivals and reflecting the fact that the evenings of Ramadan are a time for great celebration. Indeed the music presenter commented that certain music clubs use Ramadan as a conscious marketing opportunity. This illustrates more a cultural rather than a religious sensibility on the part of the programmers.

Other faiths and religious festivals are also represented. At Christmas, Christian Arabs were invited to talk about their faith and practices. Programmes have covered the inter-religious dialogue between Islam and Christianity, a Jewish writer was invited to talk about his writing on the Bible.

2.7. Beur FM - economic inclusion

Radio in France is dominated by a handful of companies which own the major radio stations (21). Beur FM is an independent, commercial radio station, with all of its income coming from advertising revenue. It has an annual turnover of 1.5 million euros and receives no financial aid from the state. This commercial footing has implications for the freedom of its editorial policy and programming, especially as the station grows, which will be developed further in this study.

Despite broadcasting to 11 different regions in France, Beur FM does not yet have status as a national radio station. The audience figures for Beur FM, collected by the national organisation which measures radio audience figures Médiamétrie, appear within a group of 89 independent radio stations. This group of independents collaborates as a consortium for pooling the sales of its advertising space, which wouldn’t be viable separately. National and multi-national companies seeking to advertise their products and services sign up with the central agency to transmit their adverts across the network of independent stations. Beur FM receives the majority of its advertising revenue through this method, but also has an internal sales department, which deals with local and specialist maghrebin retailers and wholesalers. The Director reported a great demand for advertising space. This means that if space is at a premium, then the station does not have to demonstrate to advertisers why they should choose to advertise with Beur FM by giving them statistics on audience numbers and profiles of the audience. It also means that their editorial line can remain independent. They are not dictated to by one large advertiser or sponsor.

‘Je n’ai pas de mulitnationale ou d’Etat derrière moi. Notre chaîne ne sera pas la voix de son maître: nous ne serons pas neutres mais simplement independants.’

Nacer Kettane commented on the editorial freedom of Beur TV (22). It is the same position for Beur FM and neither does it have to worry about pleasing shareholders. One of the criticisms of Michel Meyer, director of the national French radio network, France Bleue in his study of FM radio in France (23) is that in the post 1968 environment of the free market and free thinking where everything is permissible, the result is ‘radio trash’. He is referring to the reality phone-ins and chat shows on major stations such as Skyrock, NRJ and Fun, which he claims are a result of profit-led programming.

3. Conclusion – sound salvation

Beur FM has been operating as an independent commercial radio station for over 11 years. It has applications pending for licences to broadcast to two other regions in France. If successful this could gain Beur FM the status of a national radio station. This commercial success has spawned the creation of Beur TV, also a commercial concern. For both enterprises to exist on advertising revenue suggests that this population represents a viable market of consumers.

The station has come a long way from its inherited origins as a community radio station. Although operating for 11 years, it is still in a transitional stage. Its future success will depend on its continued ability to speak to a wide audience. The management need to be clear about the composition of its listeners and make clear decisions about where its core audience lies. An observation of the music presenter was that in the last six months there has been a noticeable rise in callers to the programme with French sounding names. A limitation of this study has been a lack of information on the listeners. It would be interesting to find out, for example, how many listeners are ‘Français de souche’ and how many from mixed marriages. Statistics from 1996 showed that one Maghrebin boy in two and one Maghrebin girl in four have a relationship outside of their community (24). If this is an increasing part of Beur FM’s audience there will be implications for the programming as it becomes a national, more mainstream station.

If the audience becomes more mainstream and less niche and if the competition for advertisers becomes stiffer, then it may well be a challenge to the managers and editors to maintain its editorial quality and integrity in the face of commercial competition. Integration, however need not mean assimilation and hopefully the station will retain something of its distinctiveness.

There is a question of the appropriateness of the name of the station as it becomes more mainstream. The word Beur has served very well as a brand, to the extent that it has been adopted by the new television station. However there are also signs that this may evolve. The subtitle of the television station is La Chaîne Méditerranée, which one member of the editorial board feels will be used more and more as the station’s name and that in time will become known simply as LCM as it becomes more mainstream. This would be in the same vein as RTL which was originally Radio et Télévision Luxembourgeoises. Beur FM could well evolve along these lines.

Whilst the station may have its origins in a community living in the margins of society, it is in no way broadcasting from the margins. Its professional journalistic approach and commitment to French republican values grounds it at the centre of French society and at the heart of the French republican project. Nacer Kettane said of Beur TV,

‘notre chaîne sort des entrailles de la société française.’ (25)

So perhaps it is not a question of degrees of integration, but of re-evaluating the notion of French-ness. Whilst Beur FM may fit within the republican model, it is not afraid to tackle social and political issues relating to the State which other media may not necessarily cover. For example the emission on 17 October which commemorated the death of 200 Algerians in 1961, who were protesting against a curfew, under police chief Maurice Papon.

The ‘Marche des Beurs’ brought together people of different backgrounds; children of harkis (Algerians who fought on the side of the French Army in the Algerian war of independence) with children of resistance fighters. Beur FM opens up a space within France to create a dialogue with other parts of the world. This is a crucial role to play at a time when even within France the fear of Muslim fundamentalism, ‘intégrisme’ and the acknowledgement by the establishment of a large section of voters within the Maghrebin population is leading to another problem of identification, that of labelling this population as Muslim. Beur FM takes the time to look at these issues in depth, rather than the sensationalist approach of some of the national media and reflects the variety of opinion and beliefs within the Maghrebin population itself and acts as an intelligent source of information for all.


Ahmed Nait-Balk, Direction Antenne et de l’information, 24 November 2003

Rachid Bentaleb, Programmation Musicale, 26 November 2003

Nadir Djennad, Rédaction, 25 November 2003

Ahmed El Keïy, Rédaction, 24 November 2003

Yassin Yahiaoui, Webmaster, 25 November 2003


Derderian, Richard L. ‘Radio Beur, 1981-1992: L’échec d’un multiculturalisme à la française ?’ in ‘Hommes et Migrations, No. 1191, October 1995, pp.55-59

Durmelat, Sylvie, ‘Petite histoire du mot beur : ou comment prendre la parole quand on vous la prête’ in French Cultural Studies, ix (1998), pp.191-207

Hare, Geoff, ‘The digitisation of French Radio: Demassification or hybridisation?’ in The Web Journal of French Media Studies, Vol 1, No. 1, November 1998, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Hargreaves, Alec G., 1997, Post-Colonial Cultures in France, London and New York: Routledge

Jazouli, Adil, 1992, Les années banlieues, Paris : Seuil

Kedadouche, Zaïr, 2002, La France et les Beurs, Paris : La Table Ronde

Tribalat, Michèle, 1996, De l’immigration à l’assimilation. Enquête sur les populations d’origine étrangère en France, Paris : La Découverte


With thanks to the assistance of Beur FM and its staff for giving their time, a warm welcome and access to the radio and television studios; to Hélène Gill for supervision and to MA tutors and students for feedback; to Knapper Bean Ltd for use of its broadband connection and to Debbie and Hannah for their support; to Bromley Leisure for the use of mini-disk recorder and microphone ; and to Brian Turpin for advice and support in all things as always