Egypt to reissue new satellite TV uplink permits

AP News
Posted: Nov 01, 2010 1:59 PM
Egypt to reissue new satellite TV uplink permits

Egypt's information minister on Monday ordered the reissuing of new licenses for private TV satellite uplinks amid criticism that the state aims to tighten government control over the media ahead of parliamentary elections.

Under the order, Egypt's state television is required to issue the new licenses, which could be seen as bringing heavier government oversight over private TV coverage from this country.

The move comes weeks after authorities revoked previous licenses for about a dozen companies issued by the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, a branch of the communication ministry.

The minister, Annas el-Fiqi, said he asked state TV to issue new licenses to all companies operating legally in the country.

El-Fiqi has pledged to end what the government says is an unregulated media industry.

His announcement followed October reports by several private companies providing live broadcast services, which said the telecommunications regulator will require them to get new licenses from state TV.

Media professionals said the measure aims to put all live broadcasts, including TV talk shows and news bulletins, under the control of state television.

Bahey el-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said el-Fiqi's measure is intended to give government media "a monopoly on live broadcasts."

"Gradually, we will see opposition silenced and the space for a media blackout increase," Hassan told The Associated Press.

Also in October, the Egyptian regulator set new rules for companies sending text messages _ known as SMS aggregators _ to multiple mobile phones, requiring them to obtain licenses. Separately, the authorities shut down several private TV channels for violating broadcasting licenses _ a move the activists say will stifle efforts to mobilize voters for the Nov. 28 balloting.

Egypt's Media Free Zone also warned other channels against violating terms of their contracts with the main satellite operator NileSat and breaching broadcasting ethics.

Critics say the sequence of new restrictions is intended to stifle Egypt's vibrant media landscape ahead of elections in this authoritarian country.