CAIRO: Over the past few years, Egyptian television has slowly been integrating with internet technology, especially through channels broadcast on Nilesat, a report issued by the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) said.
According to the report, as of June 2010, 72 percent of channels broadcast on Nilesat had websites. However, only nine channels, 23 percent of Egyptian channels, are streamed live through websites.
This, according to Mervat Abou Ouf, professor of journalism and mass communications at the American University in Cairo, is a relatively low percentage. “There is a very small percentage of people in Egypt who can afford the accessibility to the internet and [they] have to master the English language to be able to use the internet effectively, so they have to be educated enough to master this developed technology,” she said.
However, the younger generations are rapidly growing accustomed to technology and the internet, which, according to Abou Ouf, has a strong impact on Egyptian media and should be taken into consideration with regards to the media’s future online sector.
Development of television
The report, issued in July, addresses the development of Egyptian television over the last 50 years.
The number of families who own TV sets in Egypt increased from 77.2 percent in May 2008 to 88.3 percent in January 2010, the report said. While the number of families who own receivers increased from 48.3 percent in May 2008 to 69.8 percent in January 2010.
“A rapid increase,” according to Naila Hamdy, chair of the journalism and mass communications department at AUC, “You can see how television has become an essential part of people’s lives,” she said.
“Even those who don’t own television sets or receivers can now access them through different ways, like at coffee shops for example or at family and friends’ houses,” she added.
Egyptian media plays a leading role in the region, supplying numerous TV and film productions to the Arab world.
Many of these programs are produced at Media Production City in Sixth of October City, which comprises six studio complexes, equipped with the necessary facilities to produce drama series and TV programs, according to the report.
“There’s no question that Egypt has been the leader of TV development and media development in the region,” Hamdy told Daily News Egypt.
NileSat 101, the first Egyptian satellite, was launched into space in April 1998 and operated in June 1998, making Egypt the first Arab country to own a satellite.
Specialized satellite channels
The report also tackles Egypt’s specialized satellite channels, including Nile Drama, Nile Comedy and Nile Cinema.
“They [Egyptian TV] has made a huge effort in improving and competing with other private channels, the quality of the programs is much better,” Hamdy said.
“Although it would make more sense to leave the entertainment to privately-owned channels, and state-owned channels can focus on more serious content that would serve the public,” she added.
Nile TV, launched in 1994, is the only Egyptian channel broadcast in English, French and Hebrew. Its signals cover the Middle East, half of North Africa, Europe and the United States of America.
Nile TV targets a wider audience abroad, including Egyptians.
“Nile TV has improved a lot since it first started, but it needs to improve more because its competition abroad is very fierce,” Abou Ouf told Daily News Egypt, “It needs to start truthfully reflecting the events that take place in Egypt, with equivalent focus on positive activities that the media almost totally ignores reporting on.
“If Egyptian TV channels are not accurate in reflecting what’s happening on our streets, people will resort to other channels, we need to trust our media,” Abou Ouf said.
“We need to have more thematic channels targeting audiences abroad, including cultural, political, social and economical channels that convey Egyptian authenticity and originality,” she added.
The report failed to address the content of Egyptian satellite channels and whether they have managed to attract a wide range of audiences.
Hamdy believes that despite the competition, Egyptian satellite channels have succeeded in attracting a wide range of audiences.
50 years ago
The report also delves into the history of Egyptian television. On July 21, 1960, Egyptian TV started its first black and white broadcast through one channel.
The broadcast, which lasted for five hours a day, was launched from Egypt’s Radio and Television Building, also known as Maspiro.
Maspiro, a distinguished site with its cylindrical design, takes its name after the French Egyptologist, Gaston Maspiro.
Egypt now has two state-run national channels, six regional channels and a variety of satellite channels.
According to the report, today 520 TV channels (Egyptian and non-Egyptian) are broadcast on Nilesat satellites, including 100 encrypted channels and more than 400 free TV channels.
Many are anticipating the launch of Nilesat 201 which took place last week.
“The launch of Nilesat 201 means more space, more potential, more jobs, and more ideas and reflections from the old and the young [generations],” Abou Ouf said.
“But it has to be well planned, otherwise it won’t be effective,” she added.
Abou Ouf explained that the government needs to ease its censorship on satellite channels and encourage an honest interpretation of Egyptian reality.