'El-Bernameg' moves to terminate CBC contract

Ahram Online, Sunday 17 Nov 2013

Bassem Youssef's program contract with privately-owned Egyptian CBC channel in dispute following 'El-Bernameg' suspension

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef (Photo: Bassem Youssef official Facebook page)

Qsoft, the production company for satirist Bassem's Youssef's 'El-Bernameg' TV show, announced on Sunday that they have decided to terminate their contract with the program's host channel, CBC.

According to the Sunday statement, Qsoft will take all legal procedures against CBC to receive "compensation for intellectual and financial harm" due to the show's suspension without warning after one episode, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

CBC announced in early November that it had decided to suspend 'El-Bernameg' following review of the third season's second episode, which had yet to be screened. The channel stated that Youssef and his producer "violated what has been agreed upon" with CBC, as well as CBC's "editorial policies," and announced the show's suspension until editorial and commercial disputes with Youssef were resolved.

Qsoft's statement asserted that the company has been subject to "an unjust campaign" over the past weeks by CBC, which is pressuring Youssef and the production team to agree to restrictions on 'El-Bernameg's content.

"CBC has fabricated flimsy arguments and pretexts...to justify their decision to suspend the show," the statement read.

These pretexts for suspension, according to Qsoft, include non-compliance with the editorial policy of the channel, lack of commitment to deliver the agreed-upon episodes, and insistence on extra money as a condition to producing new shows.

All these claims are incorrect, Qsoft asserts.

In response to Qsoft's assertions, CBC owner Mohamed El-Amin suggested that the escalating dispute could only be resolved through the courts. El-Amin told Al-Ahram's Arabic website that he is currently out of Egypt, but that based on Qsoft's statement it appears the company has rejected the ongoing negotiations.

The Qsoft statement concluded that CBC's decision to suspend 'El-Bernameg' presents a negative image of Egypt's democratic transition and commitment to free speech following the 30 June protests that toppled former president Mohamed Morsi.

During the third-season opener of 'El-Bernameg', Youssef drew laughs by displaying a picture of Egyptian army chief El-Sisi before quickly switching to the correct image of Interim President Adly Mansour, insinuating that El-Sisi was the actual ruler of the country. Youssef poked fun at El-Sisi's supporters for "turning him into a pharaoh through blind support."

El-Sisi, as head of the army, has grown immensely popular since the military's ouster of Morsi on 3 July following days of mass protests against his rule.

Taking a more serious tone, Youssef – who was called in by Morsi-appointed general prosecutor Talaat Abdullah during Morsi's tenure on charges of insulting the president – stated "I am not with the [Islamists], who attacked us and declared us apostates ... and publicly called for our imprisonment."

"At the same time, I am not with hypocrisy, deification of individuals and creation of pharaohs," he went on.

"We are afraid that fascism in the name of religion will be replaced with fascism in the name of nationalism," Youssef added, expressing concern over the possible suppression of free media during the transitional period.

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