CAIRO: While most sectors were hard hit in the aftermath of the January 25 uprising, the media seems to be flourishing with more and more satellite TV channels making their way to the screen, experts say.
The competition is fierce as some channels have hired celebrity talk show hosts while others are introducing new faces.
"Egypt is drowning in a media pool that is witnessing a period of unrest, ambiguity and liquidity," said Yasser Abdel Aziz, a media expert.
"This boom is due to increased funding, but some of the funders don’t care about the media industry but [are in it for] political gain. These owners want to set the agenda for public opinion," Abdel Aziz told Daily News Egypt.
Egypt has no media system, Abdel Aziz said. Freedom of expression flourished to a large extent after the fall of the previous regime, but the industry itself isn’t organized the way it should be when it comes to the transparency regarding sources of funding, ownership and the values and principles that govern media outlets.
"This is where the danger lies," said Abdel Aziz.
An influx of channels
Tahrir was the first channel to hit the airwaves since it was launched before Mubarak stepped down, which is why it had to be registered through a foreign company due to previous restrictions on the media, said Ibrahim Eissa, who heads the channel.
An informed source, speaking to DNE on condition of anonymity, said that four partners own the channel, talk show host Mahmoud Saad, journalist Ibrahim Eissa, Ahmed Abu Heiba, an associate of televangelist Amr Khaled, and Mohamed Mourad, a furniture designer who is producing one of the shows for the channel.
"Tahrir isn’t a big production and our salaries are very low which is a trademark of any business involving Eissa," the source told DNE. The channel’s capabilities are limited; only one or two editing suites which production crews take turns to use, the source added.
The official page of Tahrir channel on Facebook describes it as "The first channel that is not linked to businessmen. A channel from the nation, to the nation."
25TV is another revolution-inspired channel that is mostly run by young producers. Owned by Video Cairo’s Chairman Mohamed Gohar, it presents a new interactive media concept that fits the young connected audience through social media.
CBC (Capital Broadcasting Center) was launched earlier this month only to be labeled quickly "the remnants channel" or “qanat elfoloul.”
Controversy looms over the owner of CBC, Mohamed Al-Amin, an Egyptian businessman who worked abroad for 30 years. Al-Amin is the partner of the old regime’s business tycoon, Mansour Amer, in many of the latter’s projects like Porto Marina and Porto Sokhna.
CBC isn’t Al-Amin’s the first media venture. He is a partner in El-Youm El-Sabea newspaper according to its editor, Khaled Salah. Salah said in a recent interview with the Pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper that Al-Amin, Mohamed El-Morshidy, another tycoon under Mubarak’s regime and Alaa El-Kahky, owner of Media Line Advertising Agency, recently partnered with Walid Mostafa, El-Youm El-Sabea’s chairman, in the newspaper after the withdrawal of Ashraf Safwat El-Sherif, the son of Mubarak-era Speaker of the Shoura Council, now detained pending investigations. Ashraf has since fled to Paris.
Mohamed Hany, CBC manager, has vast experience in the field and is best known for being the executive producer of El-Beit Beitak daily talk show that kicked off in 2004 on Egyptian State TV to compete with similar magazine shows on private channels.
Late last year, Hany was preparing to launch El-Beit Beitak channel which was supposed to start its transmission in early 2011. According to an interview with Hany last December with El-Shabab portal, the channel was part of a network of five channels, which was set to include a general entertainment channel and a sports channel.
"The main partners were [steel mogul now behind bars] Ahmed Ezz, Mahmoud Baraka, El-Beit Beitak’s producer and Mansour-Maghraby Group. The channel is not for profit, aiming to change negative ideas and wrong practices whether they come from political parties, government or the people. We focus on the Egyptian personality with its pros and cons," Hany had told El-Shabab portal, the online arm of El-Shabab magazine published by Al-Ahram.
CBC, which Hany currently manages, defines itself on its official Facebook page as "an Egyptian, general entertainment, free-to-air TV channel broadcasting from Cairo, Egypt. The essence of the channel is to play a constructive role in Egypt’s society by presenting all the challenges, potentials and opportunities…in the post-revolution era."
Al-Amin, in statements to the Lebanese daily Assafir published on July 2, said that the channel’s capital is an endowment and a gift to the Egyptian people. "Our channel is non-profit and we seek to re-shape Egyptian awareness," he said.
Hany promised two more channels to be launched shortly as part of the CBC network — CBC Drama and CBC2.
Presenters on CBC include prominent media figures Adel Hammouda, Lamis El-Hadidy, Magdy El-Galad, also the editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, and Khairy Ramadan.
Despite being partners in El-Youm El-Sabea with Al-Amin, Alaa El-Kahky and Walid Mostafa launched their own channel Al-Nahar that features prominent figures such as Khaled Salah, editor of El-Youm El-Sabea, Gameela Ismail, TV anchor Ibrahim Hegazy and Amr Katamesh, the star of Arabs Got Talent who is famous for his “Halamanteeshy” poetry.
An employee at the channel told DNE that Samir Youssef, sports programs producer, leads Al-Nahar while El-Kahky, former AlJazeera English Correspondent, is the programs director.
Youssef was the head of Modern Sport channel chaired by Nabil Deabes, former member of the dissolved National Democratic Party. Youssef is also the husband of prominent talk show host Mona El-Shazly who hosts Al Ashera Masa’an on Dream TV 2.
Speaking about the choice of TV presenters, media expert Abdel Aziz said that popularity seems to be the only criteria, rather than professionalism. "Sometimes the more unprofessional, the more popular a presenter can be," he added.
Outside the box
However, there are a few new channels that are coming in with fresh ideas. For one, El-Gomhuria TV is the first online TV channel owned by Core Publications Company that produces Campus and E7na magazines and are managed by young businessman Shady Sherif. The channel, which is yet to be officially launched, calls for a civil state.
Another is El-Entekhabiya El-Masriya, a channel dedicated to political campaigns that was quietly launched on June 16 on the Jordanian satellite Nur Sat but can also be viewed on Nile Sat. It is chaired by Hany Ahmed, a director of advertising and music videos.
"The channel is a bridge between parliamentary and presidential candidates and voters. We will provide the suitable atmosphere for elections," Ahmed told DNE.
The channel’s slogan until the elections will be "A Nation’s Destiny" and will change afterwards to "Your Eye on Egypt" to follow and monitor the winning candidates.
Asked about the channel’s low profile, Ahmed said advertisements are not needed because only those who are interested in what the channel offers will seek to watch it.
Ahmed said that the reason why the channel is no on Nile Sat is that the procedures are complicated and take a long time. "It’s no different from before the revolution. It’s a whole system that cannot be changed overnight," he said.
El-Entekhabiya, the chairman says, doesn’t support or oppose a candidate but neutrally presents their programs for the people to make up their minds. Ahmed is already in touch with some political parties and candidates like Essmat El-Sadat, co-founder of the Reform and Development Party and presidential hopeful Mortada Mansour.
Ahmed worked in some TV channels in Syria and Jordan. He said he is not a member of any political party which makes him the perfect man for the job since state TV lacks credibility and channels owned by businessmen who are involved in politics will inevitably be politically biased.