French-Tunisian producer and financier Tarak Ben Ammar announced in Milan on Wednesday that he will buy the ONTV Egyptian television network which belongs to Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.
The value of the deal was not disclosed but Ben Ammar said it would link North Africa, Egypt and Europe for the cause of freedom of expression.
He was quoted as saying in a statement that he would manage the Egyptian network through his Italian company Prima TV.
Ben Ammar said his goal was to “create a pan-Arab media group with a foothold in Europe creating and distributing content across film, TV and the digital space for local, regional and international audiences.”
Ben Ammar has produced over 60 films in 30 years, with interests in film and TV production, film studios in Tunisia and France, post-production facilities and distribution.
The deal is set to showcase content varying from film and TV production to current affairs programming for the local, regional and international market.
“The deal represents a strategic decision to create an alliance between the North African market, which comprises some 90 million people, with the Egyptian market, a further 80 million,” a statement on the acquisition read.
The total combined population of these two markets accounts for more than half of the Arab world’s entire population.
Egyptian magnate Sawiris and his family have built a multi-billion dollar empire stretching the globe and with interests in media, telecommunications and industry. Tarak Ben Ammar is also a board member of The Weinstein Company, Mediobanca and Telecom Italia.
The statement on the deal also focused on ONTV “benefiting from new non-Egyptian ownership that has no connection or ties to any political group in Egypt and is committed entirely to ensuring impartiality and respecting the diversity of views in the country.”
Ben Ammar said: “I come from the entertainment world. I am not a politician. I have no ties to any political party, even in my own country Tunisia … I am solely focused on providing audiences with the best, most relevant content possible, whether that be in current affairs, film or TV.”
Ben Ammar also denied any interest in buying the Italian television station La7 which belongs to Telecom Italia or Mediaset Premium which is part of disgraced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire.
The businessman is a board member of Telecom Italia, which is meeting on Thursday to decide several key issues including the sale of La7.
The board is also expected to decide on an investment offer from Sawiris to whom Ben Ammar said “the door is neither open nor closed.”
Ben Ammar also said he was planning to launch Tunisian channel Nessma in France in 2013 for some seven millions of French people of Arab origin.