Egypt tightens TV broadcast rules
Cairo, October 15, 2010
Satellite broadcast firms in Egypt said the telecoms regulator has stopped them from offering live feeds to private TV channels, a move that government critics see as a crackdown on independent media before a November election.
State media officials said the decision to cancel the feed permits was part of a broader attempt to better regulate independent media and was not a curb on free speech.
Critics said this was bound to hamper reporting in the run-up to the November parliamentary vote and a 2011 presidential election.
"Imposing these 'regulations' now ahead of parliament and presidential elections strongly indicates the state's intention to prevent any broadcasting of political dissent or violations against voters," said Hisham Kassem, an independent publisher.
President Hosni Mubarak, 82, in power for almost three decades, has not said if he will run for a sixth term and no clear candidate has emerged to succeed him.
Channels with cancelled permits must now broadcast directly via studios affiliated with the state-run Media Production City.
"I have had to cancel bookings by Al Jazeera for two units for parliamentary election coverage," said Nader Gohar, owner of satellite feed provider Cairo News Company. "If I go ahead with the booking, I could be jailed. This will definitely shrink the content and coverage of the parliamentary elections."
Before 2004, Egypt's TV and press were limited to government-controlled programmes. Since then, privately owned press and media have sprung up, stimulating more criticism of state policy.
Osama el-Sheikh, director of Egypt's state radio and TV union, denied the latest changes would chill reportage. "These are measures to regulate the plethora of companies that set up SNG (satellite news gathering) units to offer live broadcast feeds to channels. Many of these companies have neither permits nor licenses," Sheikh told Reuters.
He said any channel wishing to rent SNG units for live broadcast could do so through state television. -Reuters