Television is the most popular media platform in Egypt. The state owns two national terrestrial channels, six local channels, and a network of satellite channels, known as the thematic channels. The television sector operates under Law 92 of 2016 that states the establishment of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) to regulate the public and private media sectors. The National Media Council (NMC) is responsible for all state radio and television broadcasting (ERTU). The National Press Council is responsible of national newspapers and magazines.
The terrestrial television system operates under complete government supervision, leaving the private stations able to operate only via satellite. Licenses are issued and frequencies are assigned through the General Authority for Investment (GAFI) which is affiliated to the Ministry of Investment, and therefore is still part of the government. According to Law 92 of 2016, the SCMR should be responsible for issuing broadcasting licenses. The satellite channels usually enjoy more freedom than the terrestrial channels to criticise government decisions or policies. Ironically, these satellite channels, which are not monitored or governed by any charters or regulations, are the most favored platform by viewers.
According to the CAPMAS report, on a daily average the main and local terrestrial channels transmit mainly political programs (22.65 percent), followed by entertainment programs (16.3 percent), then by cultural programs (15.31 percent), religious (15.30 percent), public service announcements (11.3 percent), sports (7.24 percent); the touristic broadcasts (1.57 percent), historical heritage (2.20 percent) and educational (6.16 percent), score the lowest.
The thematic channels are a group of 10 specialised channels (Nile News, Nile Drama, Nile Cultural, Nile Sport, Nile Life, Nile Cinema, Nile Educational, Nile Family and Child, Nile Higher Education) which broadcast 24 hours a day, except t for the higher education channel which broadcasts 14.5 hours per day.
Al Masreya Channel is the first Arabic satellite channel that was launched in 1990; formerly known as the Egyptian space channel, it operates under the ERTU.
Although Egyptian terrestrial broadcasting is owned and controlled by the government, it relies heavily on advertising revenues from national and international product commercials aired on the Egyptian channels.
The Egyptian national television has lost some of its credibility, especially after the misleading coverage of the January 25 revolution. Although some attempts were made to provide a daily talk show that would compete with the private sector, most of these were not successful in regaining the audiences or the popularity of the national television. Yet, in February 2018, and under the supervision of the new regulatory bodies, Channel One has been introduced in a new format. Although it is still a replica of the known formats that depends on a morning show, an evening talk show, a religious program and a sports program, it promises the adherence to public service remits; yet it is too early to measure the success of the initiative.
Nearly all Egyptians (98.8 percent) have television sets in their home. Television is by far the most common source of news as nearly all Egyptians (94.1 percent) use the TV to get news at least once a week, and 84.2 percent use it daily or most days a week.
Egypt launched its new Nilesat satellite on April 28, 1998, realizing the importance of transnational broadcasting and the utilisation of digital satellite broadcasting technology in the new millennium. Nilesat-101 is a state of the art digital satellite; it carries 12 transponders, each with a capability of transmitting a minimum of eight television channels. Transmitting across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Nilesat 101 and Nilesat 102, which was launched in August 2000, are the two hot birds in the Middle East carrying around 203 television stations and more than 60 radio stations. Among the most popular transnational channels in the Arab world are BBC Arabic, Russia Today and Deutsche Welle Arabic. Nilesat is a successful project that is playing a major role in Arab broadcasting in general and Egyptian broadcasting in particular, as a free platform providing satellite households with a variety of choices.
Private satellite television is very popular and a major player in the broadcasting sector in the Arab world and it has achieved high percentages of reach. Dream TV and El Mehwar are the first two Egyptian privately owned satellite television stations. They were launched on November 2001 and February 2002 respectively. Both offer a wide variety of programs including political programming that deals with sometimes controversial subjects. Other private satellite stations that were launched few years later are Sada El Balad and Al Hayat TV, and they apply almost the same programming format.
After the Jan 25 revolution, many private channels were launched, such as Cairo Broadcasting Corporation - CBC (2011), On E (2016) and the DMC network (2017). Most of those networks include specialised TV channels for news, drama, sports, and cooking. All the Egyptian private networks are almost a replica of each other, with a generalist station and specialised ones for niche audiences; the generalist channel usually broadcasts the main evening talk show. Almost all private stations provide a news bulletin, which was not allowed before 2011 and was limited to the state radios and televisions to give the government power to manage the news agenda; all private stations claim the adoption of a political liberal stance, yet the government has its own direct and indirect interference.
Television revenue is derived mainly from advertisements. State-owned stations have an edge as they depend on the government’s subsidy as an extra funding tool, even if it suffers from a budget deficit of US$1.6bn. The competition between channels on the advertising pie is very strong. Media experts claim that all private satellite channels are spending incredible amounts of money to get the highest percentage of audiences’ shares yet the advertisements expenditure never covers the costs. The holy month of Ramadan is an indicator of the imbalanced market. During the Ramadan of 2017, private stations have spent around LE2bn and LE50m to buy and produce exclusive content, yet the whole advertisements revenue did not exceed LE800m.
Pay TV is growing slowly in the Egyptian market and is expected to attract more people. OSN network introduced the Video on Demand (VOD) and the Digital Video Recording (DVR) services in 2014 and is reporting an expansion to its retail presence across the country.