Economic crisis hits Egyptian TV series industry

Economic crisis hits Egyptian TV series industry

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Wed, 22/05/2013 - 16:38

Television series producers are facing numerous challenges with the approach of the holy month of Ramadan, traditionally a lucrative season that has brought them millions in profits over the past two decades.

A sudden recession has hit the industry, affecting thousands of artists and professionals. Indeed, the industry has not been immune to the economic crisis that has affected all aspects of life in Egypt. A decrease from 70 TV series produced in 2012 to only 33 this year indicates a grave setback for the industry. Several actors are now unemployed, and some technicians who operate behind the cameras now have no source of income.

Next Ramadan will, therefore, represent a matter of life and death for the television industry, with production companies forced to face the reality that satellite channels are no longer able to afford buying the rights to new series, and state television's tendency to leave the matter of series production up to incumbent Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud.

According to those who work in this field, there are other alarming omens, such as the presence of several Syrian actors in series currently being produced, the use of the same sets for most productions, and the casting and hiring of the same actors and directors for multiple series.

“Financial straits have caused a fall in production this year. The security situation and other issues the country is currently facing have naturally affected drama production,” said producer Essam Shaaban.

Safwat Ghattas, a TV producer, also blamed financial hardships. “The reason behind the TV series crisis is that satellite channels do not possess the money to purchase them,” he said. “State TV has collapsed and is now avoiding producing drama series. They still owe me LE20 million! Unfortunately, I, along with other fellow producers, have decided to steer clear of the Egyptian market until the situation stabilizes both politically and economically,” Ghattas added that the future of art in Egypt remains uncertain, indicating that producers will understandably be reluctant to risk their funds here.

Ahmed al-Gabri, another series producer, said he would “take a seat in the audience” next Ramadan. Gabri said TV drama production is facing a real crisis, which he blamed on “market haphazardness.” He predicted that the industry would suffer further losses, especially as state TV’s share of production purchases recently dropped from 30 percent to seven percent.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm