The government owns controlling stocks in the three main daily national newspapers in Egypt, Al Ahram, Al Akhbar and Al Gomhuriya. The editors of these dailies are appointed by the head of the National Council for Print Media (NCPM), the newly established regulatory body for print media. The task was formerly a competence of the Supreme Council of the Press. The regime still counts on the government print media as a tool for public mobilisation of popular support for its political programs and for delivering the official line for creating a favorable public opinion.
National newspapers depend on government subsidy and advertisements as funding mechanisms. Both started to decrease in the past few years due to the political and economic circumstances, in addition to their unsustainable business models.
Al Ahram and Al Akhbar used to have the largest circulation figures. Yet private newspapers are becoming increasingly important since the revolution in 2011 in terms of figures and circulation. According to the head of the NCPM, government subsidy went down by 40 percent, and advertising expenditures by 60 percent in 2017.
News media entities depend mainly on advertisements as a source of revenue. National newspapers have additional sources, such as government subsidy and the subscription of other newspapers (80 percent) on Al Ahram on print and distribution services.
The main problem of the governmental papers is that there is no competition between newspaper organisations or between reporters. Newspaper organisations use the same and often only source to gather information: the government. This resulted in a status quo position in organisations, and put the national media in real crisis.
Private newspapers were introduced into the market in 2004 with Al Masry Al Youm and Nahdet Masr newspapers. Al Masry Al Youm has been able to compete with Al Ahram newspaper and get almost similar circulation rates due to its news agenda that was different from the protocol news format of the national newspapers. Currently, the main three private newspapers in the market are Al Masry Al youm (2004), Al Youm7 (2008), Al Watan (2012).
The political unrest in 2011 followed by the economic recession and the Central Bank decision of floatation of the Egyptian pound have dramatically affected the printing and circulation rates of the national and private newspapers. Circulation of the national newspapers went down to by 60 percent since 2011. Private newspapers were not fenced from the harsh economic situation, the major shake for the private sector was after the floatation decision when state-run Al Ahram announced an increase in the printing costs by 80 percent due to the increasing value of the US dollar against the Egyptian pound.
The opposition press used to have an impact in earlier times when it used to hammer at government corruption and against government officials. Before the private newspapers introduction, the only competitors of government-owned media were the party presses who enjoyed limited censorship from the government; however, they were sometimes vulnerable to government pressure if they overstepped certain boundaries. According to law, all Egyptian opposition parties have the right to publish their own newspaper, yet only few are capable, and some of them are subsidised by the government to keep operating. The opposition press has restricted access to government information sources which erodes their credibility among the public. They also depend on the government for newsprint and distribution due to their poor facilities and limited financial sources.
Many political parties were formed after the revolution in 2011, however, according to the head of the NCPM their impact on the ground right now is very weak, and this weakness is reflected on the publications. Most party newspapers are weeklies, although the main opposition, parties Al-Wafd and Al-Ahrar, maintain dailies. Al Shaab, the newspaper of the Islamic-oriented Socialist Labor party, used to maintain a semi-weekly publication, yet currently it is publishing the paper over its website only.