ENTV plans to broadcast in the Berber language Tamazight and offer channels dedicated to sports, information and youth in a bid seen partially aimed at trying to reverse an Algerian
addiction to TV channels of former colonial power France.

"Public television will offer more content as we await the opening of the sector to the private," a spokesman from the Communications Ministry said. "Conditions, including security ones, are currently not adequate to open the sector," he said.

Berbers have for decades accused Algerian authorities of discriminating against the minority group and are demanding more language, cultural and democratic rights. They make up one fifth of Algeria's 32 million population.

Calls for liberalisation

Opposition parties and the independent print media have been calling for the liberalisation of television and radio.

Algeria has been criticised for
jailing journalists

They criticised authorities for giving too little air-time to opposition candidates during the presidential election campaign which saw Abd al-Aziz Butaflika re-elected on 8 April.

Algeria is just coming out of more than a decade of civil war sparked by the scrapping of legislative elections that a now-banned Islamist party was set to win in 1992. More than 150,000 people have since died in the violence, according to human rights groups.

Calls to improve ENTV, which has one channel for the domestic audience, and two for Algerians abroad, come a week after a survey was published showing that almost half of all Algerians preferred French television.

More French TV viewers

The Sigma survey, published in newspaper Liberté, showed that 46% of the population tuned in to France each day compared with 17% in Tunisia and 10% in Morocco.

Algerians have access to French TV channels through satellite dishes and decoders, most of which also give free access to European pay-TV programmes.

Analysts say the government is also keen to reverse a trend by the population of increasingly watching some Arab television channels, particularly news channel Aljazeera, which has had its operations in Algeria temporarily suspended.

The announcement also comes as the government tries to mend fences with Algeria's private print media after several editors and journalists were jailed for libelling public officials.