23 - 29 December 1999
Issue No. 461
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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TV channels not for saleBy Hanan Sabra
Rumours that NileSat's "specialised channels" will be privatised have swept Maspero, the Egyptian Radio and Television Union building, during the past two weeks. People working there have been wondering: What will happen? Is privatisation of the specialised channels a possibility -- or definite? And if so, what will their future be? Another question was the impact on a society with a high rate of illiteracy and accustomed to controlled media.
People are also asking: Why now? Is it part of the privatisation scheme in general or is it due to a shortage of financing in the Radio and Television Union?
The rumours were denied by Information Minister Safwat El-Sherif. "The Egyptian media are not for sale. I'm not in favour of privatising the media, nor for selling the tools that shape the Egyptian mind and protect it against the challenges facing our developing country," El-Sherif said.
El-Sherif added in a press interview, "The Egyptian media are owned by society and not by anyone. We are responsible before society to be in the service of the people and to uphold the national identity and cultural character."
Hassan Hamed, head of the specialised channels, told Al-Ahram Weekly, "The specialised channels are not for sale. The idea was mooted some time ago to establish a company that would be owned 51 per cent by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union and 49 per cent by another partner. But the idea was dropped and we decided to keep the specialised channels as a sector of the Radio and Television Union. What is being considered now is to allow the establishment of new private channels that may be owned by Egyptian or Arab businessmen. They can broadcast from the Sixth of October City, which will be the base of the Arab media in the new millennium."
Asked about the truth of reports of a financial crunch in the Radio and Television Union, Hamed responded: "The trend in the public business sector is to cut expenditure. As part of this sector, the Radio and Television Union has begun to cut the expenditure of all its departments, including the specialised channels. This is implemented in accordance with a studied plan in order not to affect the employees or the quality of the work and the programmes."