Egypt has the most extensive and powerful radio broadcasting system in the Arab region. Radio broadcasting started in the early 1920s, but did not officially begin until May 1934. The system is under direct control of the government and operates under the mobilisation type of broadcasting. Radio as a medium comes second in terms of popularity after television. There are an estimated 18m radio sets in the country. Egyptian radio operates under short- and medium-wave transmitters scattered throughout the country, providing broadcasted programs by means of cable and a microwave network system.
According to the CAPMAS, 2017, the total daily average of broadcasting hours by Egyptian radio stations dropped from 482.9 hours in 2011, to 272 hours in 2016.
As of 2016, the primary form of programming in the radio stations is entertainment broadcasting (87.21 percent) followed by cultural (75.8 percent), religious (71.15 percent), political (66.14 percent) and educational (10.11 percent); the lowest are for touristic (3.5 percent), historical heritage (4.24 percent) and health programming (5.48 percent). The most common language used on Egyptian Radio is Arabic, which counts for 86 percent of the broadcast content, where English counts for 17 percent, and French counts for 4 percent. (Mena Media Guide, 2015).
Radio broadcasts have been traditionally more conservative in expressing views than the print media. In the mid-1990s, a critical stage of development in Egypt was the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the application of the free market policy, to be considered the first phase of specialisation, and also a new turning point in radio broadcasting. Instead of presenting an intensive dose of government propaganda, a balanced equation of views and counter-views was promoted, but, as also was the case of economic reform in the 1990s, it was a gradual process.
The most popular International radio networks are: the BBC Arabic radio service, the Voice of America Arabic service, and the Monte Carlo Arabic service.
Other projects allowing an international and regional role in the media,included the development of the Egyptian Media Production City. The government’s objective in this project was to attract international investors and media companies to its “Media Free Zone,” a fact that fits the state’s focus on investments after the signing of the GATT agreement in the ‘90s. The Media Production City has a host of studios for the use of private-sector radio stations and professionals.
Radio broadcasting, as part of the state-run media, has began the process of privatisation through the launch of the Nilesat and the introduction of private radio as part of the overall transnational body of media in Egypt. The second phase of privatisation took place in 2003 with the introduction of terrestrial private FM radio stations, namely Nejoum FM, an all-Arabic music format, and Nile 104.2 FM, an all-Western music station broadcasting in English 24 hours a day. Both popular stations actively seek advertising and have given a tremendous boost to the radio advertising industry. Other stations were launched later such as Radio 9090 (2011), Radio NRJ and Radio DRN (2017).
Overview on main radio networks at the ERTU
Egyptian radio is organised around a network concept; each of the networks include several services and each service consists of a number of programs.
Al Bernameg El ‘Aam (the General Program) is the first and most important network. The broadcasting hours of the General Program were extended to a 24-hour broadcast format to provide round-the-clock programming. Many of the later networks were spin-offs from the main network.
Al Mahaleya, (the Local Network) is composed of 11 stations and focuses on the communities in the different Egyptian governorates. The network began on July 26, 1953, with broadcasts for Alexandria; the most recent station was established in 1995 for Halayeb. All eleven services focus on promoting the developmental goals of the state. The network is designed to promote political awareness, discover and sponsor local talent, and provide entertainment and educational services.
Al Shabaka Al Thaqafeya (the Cultural Network) was established in May 31, 1934, and it includes the European Local Service, Al Bernameg Al Mussiqi (the Music Program) and Al Bernameg Al Thaqafi (the Cultural Program). It is broadcast in Egypt only, with Egyptians and foreign residents as the target audience. It also presents discussions on both Egyptian and foreign literature.
Shabaket Al Eza’at Al Mowagaha (the Overseas Broadcasting Network) began broadcasting to eight main areas, in 1953, under the slogan “Peace and Independence for All.” The network supported the independence of several African countries. The Overseas Broadcasting Network was strong in Africa to the extent that other world services increased their transmission to Africa to compete with Egypt’s broadcast. The 1952-62 decade was the boom period of the overseas programs not only in Egypt but in the West in general as a major tool of political propaganda. The Overseas Network is composed of the European Service, the Voice of Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and the Hebrew Service.
Shabaket El Shabab Wel Reyadah (the Youth and Sports Network) was established on October 6, 1975. Its coverage is of youth and sports interests. It deals with the different social, psychological, family and health issues related to youth, and is still among the very popular networks.
Shabaket Radio El Nile (The Nile Radio Network) is part of the ERTU and includes Nagahma FM (105.3), Mega FM (92.7), Hits (88.2), Sha’abi (95.0) and Radio Masr (88.7). The network is adapting the format of the private radio stations to attract the new generations, and provides a 24-hour mix of several genres and styles of programs (sports, music, news, talk and podcasts), as well as online live streaming. Although it operates under the umbrella of the ERTU, yet it is supervised by a private company called Eaalam El Masreyeen, a private company that supervises many private media platforms.