Pushing for Change in Egypt’s Media Industry
Sunday, October 9, 2005

By Hazel Heyer
Middle East Broadcasting Journal
October 2005
Tarek Nour
Chairman and CEO of Tarek Nour Communications

Nour says he is encouraged by \"New blood\" in the Egyptian government
Tarek Nour is the Chairman and CEO of Tarek Nour Communications, one of the most influential advertising and production companies in Egypt.  In 1978, Nour established Tarek Nour Advertising as the first private advertising agency in the country. Today, TNC encompasses four advertising agencies, including an affiliate of DDB Worldwide, as well as a film production house, and a media procurement and production unit, TNC media. This Ramadan, the group intends to capture Egypt’s 40 million-plus TV audience by unleashing a series of comedies and game shows including the Jerry Springer style spin-off, Mashakel.  

How have market liberalization and other changes in the economy affected advertising expenditures in Egypt?

The liberalization of the Egyptian economy has been positive due to greater freedoms, fewer and better laws, more democracy and increased competition. As satellite dishes went up, freedom of choice arrived. Shows once unheard of in the Middle East have opened the minds of people, offering them the ability to appreciate other cultures. As our business is measured in advertising expenditures, however, I can say that the events of September 11, 2001 and the devaluation of the Egyptian currency against the dollar have made things worse for our sector. It is wise to advertise during a crisis, but few Egyptian companies took note of that. 

How do you see the relationship between the media and the Egyptian government? Are you in favor of further privatization?

Personally, I will team up with the government if it means working with the right people – those who’ve proven credibility – such as Trade Minister Mohamed Rasheed, Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali and Information Minister Anas El Feki. DDB Egypt, as part of the DDB Worldwide Communications Group, bid for the Tourism Ministry campaign for the Middle East, for example. We presented an Arabic campaign to promote tourism, completely different from the global campaign. Also we are currently on air with Egypt’s first reform campaign which deals with taxes. The media should always be in the hands of the private sector. Governments can retain one or two channels, but the rest should be privatized.today, Egyptians own music and general-programming satellite channels, but are not allowed to own terrestrial stations. That is already a big accomplishment; and ownership of terrestrial stations is in the pipeline. You will see it come.

What are some of the legal and tax-related challenges faced by the Egyptian media business?

 All advertising agencies are required to pay a 36 percent tax to the government on all advertising, and a 100 percent tax on marketing imported products – amounts not seen anywhere else in the world. While every government encourages companies to advertise, Egypt levies this excessive tax, which discourages local and foreign companies from advertising and selling in Egypt. There is a view here that advertising is an added expense rather than an investment. This leads to a misconception of the importance and significan