26 October, 2005

Politics aside, Arab TV laps up US pop culture

Arab TV laps up US pop culture :: Reuters

Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Center has expanded from its main Arabic news and entertainment channel, MBC 1, to include a channel dedicated to Hollywood movies, MBC 2, and another showing U.S. sitcoms and talk shows, MBC 4.
In Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, One TV was launched in late 2004 and offers the same mix of American fare. Like the other stations, it does not disclose how much the channel costs.

The three channels have become hugely popular across the Arab world and advertisers are chomping at the bit to buy air-time because of their growing audience in affluent Gulf Arab countries, media analysts say.
. . .
On Dubai's One TV, video montages between programs show presenters gushing in Arabic over Hollywood stars who are depicted against a Dubai skyline made to look like New York.

"We researched what our viewers would like to see and what would attract more commercial activity," said Rashid Murooshid, the channel's manager.

"We have to admit that Hollywood is one of the biggest and best producers of movies, sitcoms and popular shows. Their standard is high and can be easily accepted in this part of the world, since it's in English."
. . .
"People appreciate American culture, entertainment and to some extent their values, concerning democracy," said Jihad Fakhreddine of the Pan-Arab Research Center in Dubai.
. . .
Fakhreddine said the Arab world's binge on U.S. entertainment was another example of the intellectual crisis outlined in recent U.N. Arab Human Development Reports.

"It shows the total bankruptcy of the Arab entertainment industry. It's cheaper for them to buy ready-made products, be it cars, fridges, or entertainment," he said, adding not enough money was being put into Arabic television production.


BD said...

The article quoted makes a clear case about the popularity of American popular media. Whether or not it's better than that produced in other countries is a different question, and with things like movies and TV programming tastes can be very subjective. A more objective point to consider, however, is that Hollywood has been making movies for almost a century. Sometimes when I see productions from other countries with of couse a younger industry I just can't believe how unprofessional they seem. Take Bollywood films where the sound effects including just ordinary speaking are so exagerated and the action is so slapstick. Perhaps this too is a subjective point and not a question of skill at making movies, but for me the end effect is that I always feel like I'm watching something staged. In good Hollywood movies I almost forget that I'm watching a move as it becomes in a sense so real and beiliveable.

azucenamaryam said...

It's about an inferiority complex. One, many Arabs just feel like they can't do it. This is with the exception of Yusuf Chahine who said, "Hollywood makes 1500 films a year and none of them can beat an Egyptian film." This was a while ago in 1995 at the NYU Arab film festival opening.

It's also about taste Bollywood has a lot of fans and to be honest when I saw Bride and Prejudice, it seemed more fake than those 'truly unbelievable' South Indian films that I watched over the summer. American films are good, but that shouldn't mean that there is no alternative. The film Harem Suare, a Turkish film about the last days of the Ottoman Empire and another also, Turkish, the Elevator, were phenomenal in all respects.
I think that in the case of the Arab world perhaps it's just the proliferation of alien media combined with the idea of what "American" means. Despite the Blunders of Bush & Co., the brand America still sells. My little nieces know all the American stars. I don't know how they even relate to them. Their lives are so different; still they are caught up into it all.

One thing that I don't like about American films is predictability. You know 98% are happy endings. And the language is so trendy. This goes all the way back to films like Riverboat, Casablanca, and some of the horror films of the sixties and seventies with the exception of Dawn of the Dead.
Still, do you think that an American could do a Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) no way. Nor could they do Charlulata or Apu’s World.? And La Femme Nikita? They are all examples of great filmmaking.
And so we have found another problem, the lack of choice.
By the way, you have seen the X-Files ala Turkiye? It has two men and one woman and it's the subject matter is totally Turkcentric.
Quality Entertainment Arabian/Middle East style is totally doable.

John B. Chilton said...

Masrah Al Qasba has had a great series of Arab films (English subtitled) showing during Ramadan.

The last in the series is
Tenja, by Hassan Legzoulli
shows the 3rd & 4th of November at 10:30pm.

Qanat Al Qasha
Qanat Al Qasba

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