It is a common fact that media, as we know it today, did not begin everywhere at once. How did the Egyptian media get started? How did its growth progress?
The beginning of Egypt’s media came about with an invasion, and not originally from the Egyptians at all. Napoleon invaded Egypt near the end of the 1790s and set up two newspapers, a concept wholly new to the Egyptians. Napoleon’s invasion taught the Arabs of Egypt that they were very far behind the times and had to modernize if they were to ever keep Egypt out of foreign hands. Once they were liberated from napoleon’s forces, Muhammad Ali began the push towards modernization in 1820. However, the ruler of Egypt drove his people faster than the country could financially support.
Egypt became heavily indebted to England and France but its rise in the modern era was not halted. By the early 1900s more than two hundred newspapers had been printed and radio was introduced in 1925. Egypt was the first Arab country to obtain radio service, but it did not stop there.
In 1960, Egypt established its first television channel, with two more following in the next couple of years. Yet the pricing of TV was so expensive that less than forty people could actually start watching it in the beginning. By the early 1990s the figure had been raised to above five thousand out of Egypt’s population for fifty-five thousand. Two of the channels were dedicated to education, religious programs, weather and new broadcasting. The third channel was directed to foreigners in Egypt so that they would have something entertaining to watch.
Despite the growth of the media in Egypt it was not smooth sailing. The press went through stages of control and freedom, depending on the political power in Egypt from one year to the next. The radio and television, from the beginning, have been closely monitored by Muhammad Ali’s successors, as they all realized the power that comes with these two modern inventions.
Therefore, the Egyptian media historically began with the invasion of Napoleon and continued to receive funding by foreign nationals. Depending on who is in power, the media enjoys very little freedom and is closely monitored by the government. Everyone does not enjoy television, only by those who earn enough from their jobs to afford a TV. Compared to larger media run countries, Egypt may have entered the modern age but it still has a long ways to go before being considered an equal.