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EGYPT: English-language radio Nile FM gaining popularity as shows deal with once-taboo issues

July 18, 2010 | 10:42 am

Since the launch of the European (non-Arabic) service by Egyptian state-run radio in the 1960s, listening to English language programs has mainly been limited to an elite class of Egyptians with Western tastes. 

However, the growing popularity of the privately-owned Nile FM has taken English-language programming in Egypt to another level, as millions of young people tune into the station daily for a lot more than hip-hop and the latest pop diva ballad. 

With its slogan as Cairo's No. 1 hit music station, Nile FM, which began airing in 2003, offers a wide range of shows, including morning news roundups and discussions of everyday life issues, from littering to romance, that conservative state-run radio stations would not dare to mention in the Arab world's most populous country. 

Erin Fleming, who has worked at Nile FM for more than three years, has become a prominent voice of the station. The broadcaster from Detroit has been encouraged by the feedback she receives while introducing sensitive issues that were previously considered taboo.

"We discuss topics like prostitution, sexual harassment, women's rights, relationships and dating among others," she says. "Every now and then I get a phone message from someone who warns me from the repercussions of talking about such issues, but those are only from people who are in fear I might get harmed or something."

Tarek Abdelaziz, 26, spends a considerable part of his day driving to and from work. He says he finds the company of Nile FM helpful in coping with Cairo's incessant traffic.

The radio station's "traffic updates, which are the first of their kind in Egypt, are crucial," he says. "Their programs shed light on many thorny and important topics, providing us with an easy way of interacting, learning and freely voicing our opinions on any given discussion. I follow their shows when I'm at home too."

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Nile FM poster outside the station's studios. Credit: Al Destour