Govt to set new regulations for operation of satellite channels

Officials from the Ministries of Information and Communications have been meeting to decide on new conditions for permits to be issued by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) to companies that own real-time transmission units.

Sources from an Arab television channel based in Cairo said that nine channels that provide real-time coverage will not accept the relocation of their Satellite News Gathering units (SNG) to the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC), for technical and economic reasons.

The same source said such a step could cause heavy losses for the channels, which have adopted policies to reduce costs to remain operational. Relocation could cause running costs to rise to 100 percent at a minimum, and may undermine the channels’ ability to cover live events, the source said.

The ERTU last week asked nine channels to relocate their real-time coverage units to permanent offices at the EMPC as a precondition for receiving approval to broadcast material to or from Egypt.

The General Authority for Investment discussed last Tuesday a decision by the EMPC free zone to close down several satellite channels broadcast on Nilesat, including al-Nas, al-Hafez, al-Khalijiah, and al-Seha wal Jamal, and to issue warnings to On TV and al-Faraeen channels.

A member of the board of directors of the General Authority for Investment said the meeting did not examine the possibility of introducing amendments to the decision, but called for the EMPC free zone to put in place a transparent mechanism for handling violations and complaints.

Meanwhile, Osama al-Sheikh, president of the ERTU, described the satellite channel market as chaotic. He said regulations for the channels' operation were agreed upon months ago, and the timing of their implementation is in no way connected to the forthcoming parliamentary election.

“How can we allow companies that have no permits to be operational? And how can we let companies that own several transmission units operate even though they have received permits for only one unit?” he asked.

Al-Sheikh added that such companies have committed several other violations, such as failing to pay overdue fees. Channels will be issued 6-month permits, which will only be renewable if companies abide by regulations. They will also be required to apply for for permits for their units.

There is no intention to require companies to relocate their units to the EMPC as some claim, he added. “Those following the rules will be allowed to operate, and those who violate them risk closure or suspension of their activities until they renew their permits or settle their payments.”

“In Egypt, we are always accused of suppressing liberties, even though we’re the only country that permits private companies to possess real-time coverage units,” he continued. ”Why doesn’t anyone hold Saudi Arabia or Lebanon accountable, since they do not allow such companies to operate?”

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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