Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Dream’s nightmare

The satellite channel has been suspended for allegedly violating the law. Reem Leila sees whether the decision involves any hidden political agenda

Al-Ahram Weekly

On Thursday afternoon viewers of the TV satellite channels Dream One and Dream Two could see nothing except a black screen with a disclaimer which read, “The channel declares its inability to broadcast any of its programmes due to a decree passed by Hisham Kandil’s Cabinet banning the broadcast despite the broadcast’s legality.”
Talking to the media, Minister of Information Salah Abdel-Maksoud said that the two Dream channels broke Law 13/1979 which stipulates that all private channels are to broadcast their transmission from just one location in order to be under the control of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU). The ERTU council met on 8 November, and sent a letter to the administration of the two satellite channels, asking them to adjust their status in conformity with the law. “One week grace period was granted to them,” said Abdel-Maksoud. “We are just applying the law which no one should be exempted from.”
According to the minister, “it’s their fault. They had a whole week before we told Telecom Egypt (NileSat) to cut the transmission of Dream satellite channels.”
Since 2001, Dream has been transmitting from its own studios located at Dream Land, a compound in 6 October city. However, the only legal transmission site is the state-owned Media Production City (MPC).
The owner of Dream Land and Dream channels, tycoon businessman Ahmed Bahgat, had taken legal permission from former minister of information Mamdouh Al-Beltagui to transmit from another location. Manager of Dream Channels Mohamed Khodeir said, “our studios are bigger than those of MPC. We use MPC studios in broadcasting our sports shows. Such programmes do not require large studios, unlike the other talk shows.”
At the same time Khodeir denied the minister’s allegations that their broadcasting is illegal. “Six years ago, we agreed with the Ministry of Information and ERTU to transmit from Dream Land studios. We have official and legal permission. We are also paying the required fees for the transmission to ERTU,” Khodeir said. Legal documents, approvals and permissions proving the channels’ legal right to broadcast from Dream Land studios were shown live on a 14 November broadcast.
Abdel-Maksoud, though, claimed Dream’s status is illegal despite the permission they received. He said the channels should pay ERTU LE15 million in fees for renting the studios every year. “Now they are paying peanuts for the transmission. This is unfair to other channels. When other private satellite channels like CBC and Al-Hayat have to pay this amount, Dream channels should also,” said Abdel-Maksoud.
However, Khairi Ramadan, a TV announcer at CBC, rejected the allegations. “Private satellite channels pay only LE1.5 million per year to ERTU as rent charge for their studios.” At the same time, Ramadan condemned the decision, saying that “a one week grace period to adjust their legal situation is not enough. They need at least three months. Investments estimated by millions in Dream studios will be wasted. Hundreds of workers will be jobless. So, they need at least few months to adjust their situation.”
The disclaimer also stated that the ban confirms the onslaught on freedom, especially on the media. TV announcer and opposition writer Wael Al-Ibrashi insisted that the decision is mainly political. “When viewers see a dark screen of all Dream channels or any other channel, this means that freedom of expression as well as the media have died,” Al-Ibrashi said.
During Hosni Mubarak’s time, Dream was among the private channels to encourage public protests and was the first channel to host the Muslim Brother supreme guide at a time when Mubarak kept the Brotherhood in check. “Bahgat was on the verge of being imprisoned for the interview but because there was a reasonable margin of freedom, he was not. Now Dream is being punished for its political stances,” said Al-Ibrashi.
On 17 November, Bahgat held a press conference to provide more details regarding the ban. He said he will not give up his right to transmit from his own studios. “It seems that the channel and some of its anchors [referring indirectly to Dream anchor Gihan Mansour] have upset the ruling regime,” said Bahgat.
Mansour sued Essam Al-Erian, a leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, on charges of accusing Mansour on air of receiving bribes from unknown entities to attack the Muslim Brotherhood. A court of misdemeanours has set 24 November for a hearing.
Al-Erian has filed his own lawsuit against Mansour, accusing her of calling him a “fascist politician” during a phone-in on her TV show. Mansour, too, was referred to court.
Abdel-Maksoud denied the existence of any political reasons behind the suspension of Dream. He said the decision did not ban the channels’ broadcast. “If the channels were banned from broadcasting they wouldn’t be able to display the disclaimer which they are putting on their screens. Only cables connecting the channels’ studios in Dream Land to the NileSat have been disconnected. When they re-adjust their situation, the cables will be re-connected,” said Abdel-Maksoud.
Many political forces hurried to condemn the decision. In a joint statement issued by the Dostour Party and the Free Egyptians Party members expressed their profound respect of the law. “However, the sudden ban of Dream channels at this time and without providing owners with an appropriate grace period to adjust their conditions reflects severe arbitrariness and misuse of power… it is an ambush of the channel by the authorities,” the statement said.
Members called upon both the information minister and prime minister to prove their good intentions by withdrawing the decision and giving the channel as well as other channels enough time to adjust their status.
The private Al-Tahrir satellite channel warned of the illegality of the transmission ban and of “double standards” in dealing with private channels. Channels such as Al-Jazeera transmits from outside MPC, however, it did not receive any warning, according to the Al-Tahrir satellite channel which does not transmit through MPC.
Abdel-Maksoud said in a TV show that the status of all channels “will be thoroughly examined individually. Those who will be found violating the law will be warned and then banned if they refuse to abide by the law. Transmitting outside MPC allows channels to escape rental fees which are necessary for studios to broadcast their programmes.”

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