- November 9, 2005
The media in Egypt
The media in Egypt
Egypt has more than 500 papers
Egypt has a population of nearly 75 million and likes to portray itself as the leader of the Arab world in all aspects of modern life, including the media.
President Nasser oversaw the nationalisation of the media in 1961. Strict government censorship and licensing laws meant the state controlled what people read and watched and private media investment was impossible.
The advent of pan-Arab satellite TV channels such as al-Jazeera in the 1990s provided Egyptians with high-budget programming and more open talk shows on social and political issues. This subsequently produced changes in the Egyptian media landscape.
More recently, there has been a surge in the number of privately owned outlets, and a consequent dismantling of many decades of state control.
Television remains the most popular medium in Egypt and audience numbers are increasing rapidly.
Nearly two-thirds of Egyptians also listen to the radio on a daily basis, with news and religious programming particularly popular.
The domestic state broadcaster ERTU offers two national terrestrial channels, ERTU 1 and ERTU 2. It also provides news and current affairs output for the Egyptian Satellite Channel, ESC 1, and Nile TV International.
Nile Thematic TV was established in 1998 in an attempt to modernise the image of state television and win back audiences lost to the pan-Arab channels.
The company has its own management, independent of Channel 1 and 2, but remains under the control of ERTU.
Its 12 channels focus on arts and culture, news and current affairs, music, sports and children’s programming.
The most popular private TV channels are Dream 1 and Dream 2, 90% of which are owned by an Egyptian businessman and 10% by ERTU.
Entertainment programmes form much of the output on Dream 1, which targets 16- to 26-year-olds, while Dream 2 attracts older viewers with live talk shows airing controversial issues not covered on state-run TV.
These shows have received warnings in the past from the authorities, and some presenters have been sacked or suspended.
The ERTU still controls the majority of Egypt’s radio stations, but listening figures have dropped dramatically owing to the spread of television in general and the wide availability of satellite television in particular.
Egyptians rely on state radio for recitations from the Koran. State radio is also the main provider of news programmes, presenting the government’s position on local and world affairs.
The main entertainment and news stations include Arab Republic of Egypt General Service, Voice of the Arabs, Holy Koran Service and Greater Cairo Radio.
The government has recently allowed two private stations to broadcast on FM, Nijoom FM, which broadcasts Arabic songs, and Nile FM, which airs songs in English.
Both appeal strongly to younger age groups, offering up-to-date music and discussions on topics of interest, but no news.
The number of newspapers in Egypt has soared to more than 500, most of which are independent.
The state-owned press operates a system of self-censorship, but the sharp rise in the number of private and independent titles means the "red lines" observed by press sources have largely disappeared.
The government has recently replaced the top editors of its biggest newspapers, amid pressure from younger journalists who wanted new blood. Media observers predict this will lead to stronger criticism of the opposition.
Many believe the appointees will try their utmost to sway the presidential election on 7 September in favour of the incumbent, Hosni Mubarak.
In the run-up to polling day, opposition newspapers such as al-Ahali, al-Wafd and al-Ghad have been highlighting demonstrations against Mr Mubarak and echoing condemnations of his 24-year hold on power.
In contrast, state-linked papers such as al-Ahram, al-Akhbar and al-Jumhuriyah have largely ignored or trivialised the opposition.
MIDDLE EAST NEWS AGENCY (MENA)
The oldest news agency in the Middle East, MENA publishes a 24-hour news service in Arabic, English and French. It also produces several news and current affairs publications in all three languages.
BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.