Egypt's top privately-owned TV channels have signed an agreement putting a cap on fees for guests who appear on talk shows as well as the purchasing price for TV series in an effort to combat the rising costs of content production.
The agreement – signed between the top executives of five satellite channels; DMC, ONTV, CBC, Al-Hayat and Al-Nahar – sets maximum fees of EGP 250,000 for guests on non-drama TV programmes.
The deal also puts a cap of EGP 70 million for buying television drama series.
However, in Ramadan – a peak season with exceptionally high viewership that sees dozens of series broadcast every year – the cap for purchasing series is set at EGP 230 million.
The move is aimed at "cutting costs, avoiding losses… and addressing the unjustified rise in the price of [TV programmes], which is mainly the result of high fees demanded by celebrities," read a joint press statement by the channels on Wednesday.
Many popular actors and chart-topping singers demand fees for appearing on programmes such as talk shows that are much higher than those set by the agreement. However, many opt to appear free-of-charge on widely-viewed shows or those with popular hosts. Some channels offer guests higher fees than usual in an effort to promote their shows.
"This has sparked a crisis in attracting guests. Some channels have a limited budget they cannot exceed," said Abdel-Rahman Moshref, a producer on the Kol Yom talk show hosted by popular host Amr Adib, which airs on ONTV channel.
The cap will mostly affect shows that host popular film and music stars. Moshref says guests who appear on political and social affairs shows usually appear free-of-charge or take a modest fee averaging EGP 2,000 to EGP 5,000.
Many programmes hosted by popular presenters, as in Adib's case, often do not pay to celebrity guests an appearance fee, Moshref says.
Industry veterans, however, say the cap would be detrimental to the drama television industry.
"This will strike at the heart of the drama industry; it means setting limits on the quality of TV productions and eliminating competitiveness in the market," films and TV drama producer Sabry El-Sammak said.
El-Sammak says the limit would make it difficult to make usually high-cost productions such as historical dramas and other series that involve filming outdoors or abroad.
Production costs have increased by at least 50 percent following last year's floatation of the Egyptian pound, El-Sammak says, adding that this already poses a challenge for TV producers.
Five major advertising companies that work with the TV channels also agreed to voluntarily set a cap on the commission they receive from ads broadcast on the TV channels to support the channels.
It is not yet clear to what degree the advertising agencies' decision is binding or how violations will be handled.
The heads of the channels have notified the Chamber of Audiovisual Media Industry about the two agreements, Wednesday's statement said. The chamber's executive director Amr Fathy said that other private channels will be invited to join the agreement.
Chamber officials could not be immediately reached for comment.