BEIRUT: The director of the once-ailing Tele-Liban launched Thursday a revamped broadcast studio and a lineup of new programming, stressing that while efforts to resuscitate the national station had begun, the road to its full-fledged revival would be long.
The shiny new panels and stage lighting rigs that adorn the new studio floor contrast sharply from the run-down and underfunded space it once was. The centerpiece of the restored studio is the set, which features a gleaming white seating arrangement, framed by multicolored panels on both sides and a bold green cedar in the middle.
“Today, we have created a new control room with equipment that was already present [in the television station offices],” said Talal Makdessi, the director and chairman of the board of directors at Tele-Liban. “So far we haven’t bought any new cameras or any equipment for the control room. We have worked with what was available, but we worked with awareness and wisdom.”
Makdessi said the renovations to two studios – a newsroom and another studio equipped for other programs – depended entirely on Lebanese professionals. Lighting in both spaces was conceived by a 24-year-old Tele-Liban employee, Makdessi said, who worked for 16 hours a day in a two-week timeframe to implement his design.
“He received a promotion and a 15-percent salary increase,” Makdessi said. “Tele-Liban honors and supports whoever gives and punishes those who do not.”
Switching to fiber optics, provided by the state-run telecommunications provider Ogero, has greatly enhanced picture quality for viewers, he said.
“Tele-Liban is the only station that will be broadcast digitally using fiber optics, and in order to do that we needed digital cameras,” he said. “We discovered that we’ve always had this equipment, and that they weren’t being used.”
In two weeks, the newsroom will be functional and will begin cooperating with the state-run National News Agency, Makdessi said.
Tele-Liban also launched its new logo, framed by red and green colors reminiscent of the Lebanese flag, and “TL” emblazoned in the center.
While its current programming consists mostly of re-runs, Makdessi said a host of new programs, ranging from educational, cultural and social, are also scheduled to be introduced in the coming months.
“We will have a new sports program, a new kitchen for Chef Antoine, which has been around for 13 years next week, and entertainment programs and educational programs, so there can be more interaction between Lebanese citizens and Tele-Liban,” Makdessi said.
The station was debilitated with debt last year, as a deficit resulting from shortfalls in state payments began to accumulate. As a result, the station was unable to pay for its generators, fuel, electricity, insurance and employee salaries, Makdessi said. In November, Tele-Liban employees threatened to go on strike.
Makdessi thanked the Finance Ministry for bestowing the station with the entirety of its 2011 budget in the last two months.
“During these two months, we have used the money to pay for our debts, those we have been accumulating since 2011, and pay for many other things that the mind cannot fathom, but the important thing is we’ve put it behind us,” he said.
The budget allocated to Tele-Liban in 2011 was LL13 billion. Up until two months ago, the government had been paying the station less than 30 percent of the amount in monthly allotments.
Caretaker Information Minister Walid Daouk was also on hand for the big unveiling.
“I just want to remind everyone where we were last July,” said Daouk, whose ministry, along with the Finance Ministry, was responsible for funding the new studio.
“An important qualitative transformation has taken place today,” he said, comparing the new space to its former incarnation.
Expressing his enthusiasm to see the station’s new lineup of programs, the minister also implored Makdessi to watch over its archives, which he described as “our culture and our roots.”