Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) – which is in charge of regulating private media companies in Egypt – said on Wednesday that it has filed a case with the public prosecution against Al-Hayat TV network for issuing dud cheques days after the network's channels were taken off the air for not paying their arrears for over a year.
Al-Hayat network, which has been operating since 2008 and runs six channels, was taken off the air on Monday by the EMPC for not paying its arrears, which are estimated at EGP 19.9 million and $75,000, the EMPC said in a statement on Wednesday.
One day after being taken off the air, Al-Hayat started broadcasting from outside Egypt.
Al-Hayat issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the shutting down of its broadcast is “an unprecedented and unexpected” move.
Al-Hayat questioned the reason behind the EMPC's decision to take such "abnormal and retaliatory action" against Al-Hayat, yet failing to do the same against other channels that are in deeper debt.
The network added that it had sent cheques to pay off part of its debt on 2 July, which should have resulted in its channels being put back on the air on 3 July.
The EMPC, however, says that Al-Hayat’s cheques were not valid, and dismissed the network's claim that other channels in debt were treated differently, saying Al-Hayat delayed payment of its arrears for over one year, unlike other channels.
The EMPC added that Al-Hayat's capability to broadcast from outside of Egypt so quickly shows that the channel is in good financial status, which demonstrates its "lack of seriousness in solving the problem" of its outstanding debt.
“[The EMPC] would never want to shut down a channel, as we are interested in increasing the number of operating channels. We therefore support serious channels when they encounter obstacles, but we can never accept [non-payment of what we are owed].”
The decision to halt the broadcasting came following the media complex’s undertaking of all “legal and peaceful measures with the network and granting it more than one deadline for payment,” the EMPC said on Monday.
The board of directors of Al-Hayat network is chaired by wealthy businessman El-Sayed El-Badawy, who is also president of the Wafd Party.