Will Tahrir Channel Leave the Square?
Published Friday, October 21, 2011
Tahrir channel has faced a number of setbacks, the last of which was Ibrahim Issa selling his share of the channel. The channel has now announced the launch of a new set of programs, covering topics outside of politics. Will this new departure turn things around?
Cairo - When Tahrir channel was launched following the uprising, the Egyptian public hoped it would become the most influential media outlet in the country’s political arena. Its name alone was a guarantee of success. In addition, its founders were among the first opposition figures who joined the revolution. And they did not leave the square until Mubarak stepped down.
Over the past few months, optimism about the channel’s success began to fade as a series of crises struck. First, Mubarak’s sons launched an attack on it and accused the channel of incitement. Then, advertisers started to withdraw because, they argued, the public wants to see programming that is not political. Finally, the channel made the mistake of hiring some inexperienced young figures from the uprising.
The future of the channel has been at stake for the past few weeks. Strong disagreements have surfaced among the three partners, pitting Ahmed Abu-Heiba and Muhammad Murad against Ibrahim Issa. Rumors are circulating that each side is searching for investors to buy the other’s share in the company.
Indeed, some news sources have confirmed that publisher Walid al-Moallem and businessman Ahmed Heikal are planning to buy Abu-Heiba’s and Murad’s shares. This way, Issa would be left to manage the channel on his own. This development has coincided with the return of Bilal Fadl to the channel, in addition to the possible return of Mahmoud Saad as well.
However, the situation changed last Sunday night, when news surfaced about Ibrahim Issa selling his share of the channel to Egyptian businessman Nabil Hasan Kamel. On the same day, Issa signed a contract to host the In The Square show twice a week on Tahrir channel.
Writer Mohamed Taima, an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement in Egypt, claims that the new owner of the channel is in fact an MB member, who is known to be interested in building bridges with Copts, both inside and outside Egypt.
This confirms that the channel may no longer side with revolutionaries as it did in the first few months of broadcasting. However, in a phone interview, Abu-Heiba tells al-Akhbar that Tahrir channel will still support the uprising and Tahrir Square, whose name it carries. But, he adds, that it would be done primarily through the popular talk show, In The Square.
Concerning the positions of Bilal Fadl and other media personalities affiliated with Ibrahim Issa, Abu-Heiba explains that he will hold a meeting soon to inform them of the channel’s work regulations in the coming phase. He will give them the choice to either leave or stay. He dismissed the return of Mahmoud Saad, indicating that there is a major disagreement between the popular media personality and the channel’s management following his on-air resignation.
Abu-Heiba adds that the management is currently working on airing sports, art, and religious programming in order to become an inclusive channel, aimed at all Egyptians, regardless of their political backgrounds.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.