The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Sawiris enters satellite TV market

Naguib Sawiris, Egypt's top billionaire and around the 64th richest man in the world, has carried out something he has long been talking about and launched a satellite TV company. From a business briefing I receive:

Mr. Naguib Sawiris announced the launch of a new satellite TV channel with a paid-in capital of USD17 million. The company seeks growth within the regional media production market, and plans to expand its ownership through an IPO once it starts to achieve reasonable profitability.
The FT had done a story on this in May 2006 where Sawiris explained he had political reasons for doing this too:

The head of the Cairo-based Orascom Telecom Holdings, the region’s largest mobile telephone operator, is already majority-owner in two satellite television stations, Melody music and Melody films. He is now starting a third entertainment channel dedicated to young audiences and has applied for a licence to launch a 24-hour satellite news channel for Egypt’s domestic market.

Mr Sawiris is also expecting gradually to turn an Iraqi terrestrial general channel he owns into a broader regional satellite news channel to one day compete with the popular Qatar-based al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned al-Arabiya.

The foray into satellite media, a field that, outside al-Jazeera, has been largely dominated by Saudis – Prince Waleed bin Talal, the high-profile international financier, has been building his own satellite media empire – appears to be driven by business as much as political motives.

An outspoken secular businessman, with wealth estimated by Forbes Magazine at $2.6bn (€2bn, £1.4bn), Mr Sawiris wants to win the hearts of Arab youth by promoting a more liberal Arab society.

“When I started Orascom I started a regional activity, and I believe I can replicate the story in media,” he said, on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum conference in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. “Here [in the Middle East], most stations are family-owned, royal-owned or government-owned.”

The only hope for the region, he said, was a change in education to combat religious fundamentalism and extremism: “There is terrorism because they [young people] have nothing to look forward to.”
While his opinion is laudable, I don't think watching more episodes of Friends is exactly the kind of character-building activity that lures young people away from terrorism. Hopefully, though, it'll be better than the UAE/Saudi dominated entertainment channels.