Saudi channel to stop airing Turkish TV shows

The most watched TV series in Saudi Arabia were dominated by shows from Turkey

Saudi channel to stop airing Turkish soaps, reports say

Turkish Soap

Lebanese men smoke waterpipes at the Bab al-Hara Hamam (Turkish bath) as they watch the “Bab al-Hara” serial in Beirut September 17, 2008. The name of the Hamam refers to the famous Syrian soap opera “Bab al-Hara” that is broadcast during Ramadan. Picture taken September 17, 2008. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan (LEBANON)

The Saudi-funded MBC TV network is to stop airing Turkish soap operas popular across the Middle East, regional outlets and social media users have said, with some citing political differences between the two countries.

The reports do not appear to have been confirmed or denied on MBC’s various Twitter accounts including MBC1, MBC.Net or MBC Group PR.

Lebanese newspaper Annahar said on 4 March that despite the lack of comment from the network, its official spokesman Mazen Hayek had confirmed the news in comments to the paper.

The paper republished what it portrayed as an internal message that its sources had obtained, which said: “In accordance with a decision affecting numerous media outlets and television channels in several Arab countries and capitals, Turkish dramas are now comprehensively off [the coverage of] channels belonging to the MBC Group in the Middle East and North Africa, effective from the evening of 1 March until further notice.”

Annahar said that in response, MBC spokesman Hayek had said: “Yes, there is a decision requiring channels and countries to stop airing Turkish dramas.” He refused to comment on who was behind the order, Annahar said.

Hayek has not addressed the issue on his Twitter account.

The news was also picked up by other media in the region, including news website Huffpost Arabi and Egyptian outlets Masrawy and Youm7.

The network currently airs Turkish TV series dubbed into Arabic to audiences across the region on its channels MBC 1, MBC 4 and MBC Drama.

Some of the media outlets and Twitter users reporting the news said MBC would replace the Turkish soaps with Egyptian, Brazilian and even Pakistani series.

The programme schedule of MBC1 on 4 March showed no sign of the Turkish soap that Huffpost Arabi said used to air on the channel, and indeed listed the Pakistani series the website speculated would act as its replacement.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are at odds in their stance towards the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar. Ankara was quick to step in to support Doha, a key ally, after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain fully severed ties with it in June 2017.

In November 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowing to bring back moderate Islam to the kingdom.

But despite their differences, Riyadh and Ankara both oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, have hosted Syrian opposition groups, and their leaders continue to exchange phone calls and visits.
Source: BBC Monitoring, March 04, 2018
© 2018 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Turkish, Indian dramas rule for Saudis

Turkish drama show

Lebanese men smoke waterpipes at the Bab al-Hara Hamam (Turkish bath) after having a steambath, in Beirut September 17, 2008. The name of the Hamam refers to the famous Syrian soap opera “Bab al-Hara” that is broadcast during Ramadan. Picture taken September 17, 2008. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan (LEBANON)

The popularity of Turkish and Indian drama in Saudi Arabia was underscored in a keynote presentation here at the Discop Dubai market.

Against the backdrop of Saudi Arabia committing to invest US$64bn to support its entertainment sector as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform plan Vision 2030, Discop delegates heard just how few local and Western series and films were watched in the country.

In his Discop keynote and with Saudi Arabia due to be the guest country at the new Discop market planned for Egypt next year, Dr Riyadh Najm, CEO of the Saudi Media Measurement Company (SMMC), revealed data about what Saudi viewers actually watch on TV.

Najm said SMMC had researched the most watched TV series and films in Saudi Arabia for 2017 and broke the data down by the shows’ countries of origin. The top series were dominated by shows from Turkey (34%), followed by those from the Gulf (23%) and India (19%), and then Arabic (15%) and Western (9%) programmes.

As for the most watched films on TV, Najm said Turkey once again dominated the list with 40%, followed by India (27%), Western (19%), Arabic (8%) and Gulf (6%).

“Films from the West are still popular but the most popular TV series in Saudi Arabia are not Western but from Turkey, India and Arabic countries outside the Gulf states,” said Najm.

He added that the fact 35% of Saudi Arabia’s population were non-nationals might explain the massive popularity of non-Arabic series and films in the kingdom.

The data can perhaps be extrapolated to many of the other countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and explains the high number of Turkish, Indian and Korean distributors here at Discop this week.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan will see the country’s entertainment industry boosted, with an investment of US$64bn in tourism, theme parks, cinemas, live entertainment and sport venues and other initiatives in the hope of growing the kingdom’s non-oil industries.
Source: by Ed Waller, C21 Media, February 27, 2018
Source Description: C21 Media is an international publishing company and digital channels business. C21Media is about content in the 21st Century and provides the international content business with news, data and analysis. Country of origin: United Kingdom
©2018 C21 Media Ltd

Saudi broadcaster MBC takes all Turkish TV shows off air

Turkish drama

A family watches the Turkish soap opera “Noor” in Jeddah July 26, 2008. The show which flopped when first broadcast in its native Turkey has taken the Arab world by storm, provoking a flood of Gulf Arab tourists to Turkey that even includes royalty. REUTERS

The sudden removal of hit Turkish dramas from MBC over the past few days is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

The pan-Arab broadcaster based in Dubai has confirmed to The National that it received instructions to remove all Turkish programming from all of its channels, including Egypt’s MBC Masr, until further notice.

MBC Group spokesman Mazen Hayek would not comment on who was behind the decision or whether it came from inside or outside of the company.

There is a decision that concerns several media outlets in many Arab countries that Turkish dramas are to be taken off air, including MBC,” Mr Hayek said. That was from 1am Saudi Arabian time on March 2.”

The decision has affected six shows, including the new crime drama Al Dakheel, which is now paused on its fifth episode, while fans of the period drama Anta Watani (You Are My Nation) will be frustrated with the show stuck at the 84th episode.

While Mr Hayek would not comment on the other channels affected, the directive does not seem to apply to Dubai TV which, according to its published schedule online, continues to screen the drama Sultana Kosem at 9pm, five days a week.

The online streaming service Netflix is also showing almost 20 Turkish programmes, including the 2011 historical drama The Magnificent Century and the 2009 espionage thriller and the Gulf smash hit Ezel.

Ezel was so popular in the region during its initial screening that the show’s cast flew to Dubai for a meet and greet with fans in 2011.

Turkish dramas have been gaining a foothold in the Arab world for more than a decade.

Dubbed in Arabic, the programmes have pipped traditional leaders Egypt and Syria (the former due to poor scripts and the latter because of the present conflict crippling the Syrian TV industry) with their multi-faceted storylines, high production values and serene landscapes.

Their controversially liberal take on relationships also resulted in 2008’s Noor becoming a runaway hit in the region. The show’s final episode, airing on MBC, reportedly had 80 million viewers from the Arabian Gulf to Morocco.

Noor’s landmark success ushered a seemingly endless wave of Turkish drama, ranging from the melodramatic What Is Left of Love? and Innocent Dreams to grittier offerings including Yesterday’s Scent and Ezel.

We are a country both very close to Arabic countries and very far way,” Ezel co-creator Kerem Deren told The National in 2011.

And because of that, I think there is a fantasy to it. When I spoke to fans in Abu Dhabi, a lot of them said the same thing: that they loved it straight away but at the same time the show is a little bit strange for them.”

Mr Hayek says the decision could result in some positives for the regional television industry.

It could be an opportunity for all of us to produce premium Arabic dramas with more quality,” he said.
Source: by Saeed Saeed, The National, March 04, 2018
Source Description: The National is Abu Dhabi Media Company’s English-language newspaper and was born out of a vision that recognizes the key role that a free, professional and enlightened press plays in the national development process. Country of origin: United Arab Emirates
© 2018 . Abu Dhabi Media Company, All Rights Reserved.

Jordanian columnist deplores Saudi cleric’s “Mickey Mouse” fatwa

Text of report by Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur on 26 September 2008

[Article by Urayb al-Rantawi: “Chaos in Issuance of Religious Rulings”]

Saudi cleric Muhammad al-Munjid has made us a “laughing stock” for the East and the West after the miserable fatwa [religious ruling] he issued against Mickey Mouse, calling for its death, being “the devil’s minion”, he said. He called on Muslims to hunt down mice, saying they are manipulated by the devil. Al-Munjid’s fatwa has also extended to Tom and Jerry, the diehard foes that excite the imagination of children and rouse the interest of adults.

We say miserable out of politeness only, because others went further than that in their description of the fatwa. For example, Dr Su’ad Salih, principal of the Islamic Studies College for Girls at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, described the fatwa as “silly”. Indeed, it is silly and has become the object of ridicule by religious scholars and muftis in our country. The story of killing Mickey Mouse – or to be more precise killing cotton, since it is a toy made up of cotton as far as we know, has filled newspapers and TV screens in the West, making some laugh and others amused, and yet others comparing it with Khomeyni’s fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie.

A few days before Al-Munjid’s fatwa, Shaykh Salih Bin-Muhammad al-Luhaydan, president of the Saudi Higher Judicial Council, issued a fatwa calling for the death of the owners of corrupt space channels for their comical and entertainment programmes. Shaykh Salih was commenting on the popularity of the Turkish soap opera “Nur.” The Saudi scholar called on the owners of these space channels to repent to God. And, if they failed to repent and fear God, he called for their death.

Al-Munjid’s campaign against Mickey Mouse reminds us of Iran’s campaign against “Barbie”. It was a vicious campaign that began by banning the importation of Barbie pictures and toys. It then developed to storming stores that publicized and sold Barbie toys and ended with producing a “veiled Barbie” to conform to Iranian specifications and standards. The ideological excuse or justification for that campaign at the time was that “Barbie” manifested obscenity and temptation that could pose a threat to the behaviour and culture of the young. This is the same excuse that made the toy most popular in the world before it was dethroned or shaken by the “Brats” group; an aim, which all Islamist fundamentalist groups, whether Salafist or Shi’i, agreed on, irrespective of their ideological or intellectual differences.

The fatwa chaos is a phenomenon from which Arab and Muslim societies have suffered a great deal. It led to the death of hundreds and thousands of citizens in futile wars and clashes and the destabilization of several states and societies. Moreover, it created a deep communal and sectarian gap that could not be patched up. This calls for an alert, albeit a belated one, to this phenomenon, from which we have not recovered yet.

Our problem today is that the chaos of issuing religious rulings has produced a new phenomenon, which is the decline and triviality of these rulings; a phenomenon that is not less dangerous, as it insults our intelligence and makes us a silly nation as long as this is the mental level of our scholars. I imagine that confronting the phenomenon of triviality in religious ruling is not less important and urgent than dealing with the chaos and extremism of the fatwa itself. The least that can be done is to make these scholars go back to their dark corners and hospices and not allow them to dominate our space, air, ink, and paper so that they will not corrupt them and us.
Source: Al-Dustur, Amman, in Arabic,  September 29,  2008
© 2008 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

How Turkey blew its chance to lead this troubled region

The country could have enhanced its influence and saved a lot of lives. It did the exact opposite World View

Whatever happened to the idea that Turkey was the coming power in the Middle East, with its surging economy and stable democracy under a mildly Islamic government which might be the model for Arab states as they ended decades of police state rule in 2011? Turkey seemed perfectly positioned to lead the way, with no serious enemies in the region and with good relations with the US and the EU. Oversimplified headlines comparing modern Turkey with the Ottoman empire in the days before it became a great power in the 16th century did not seem wholly exaggerated.

Two years later, none of these good things has come to pass for Turkey, and it is very short of friends in the Middle East. It has managed simultaneously to make enemies of the four Shia powers to its south and east: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon – as well as the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf with the exception of Qatar. Turkish pilots are kidnapped in Beirut and Turkish truck drivers arrested in Egypt. Turkish support for the former president of Egypt Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood has infuriated the military regime, which has even intervened to stop the showing of Turkish soap operas on Egyptian television.

Most serious of all, Turkey’s entanglement in support of what may well be the losing side in the Syrian civil war is bringing nothing but disaster. It did not have to be like this: at the start of the Syrian uprising Ankara was well placed to play a moderating role in the crisis, since it was on good terms with President Bashar al-Assad but able to put pressure on the insurgents who depend on keeping open the 560-mile Turkish-Syrian frontier. But the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, overplayed his hand, assumed that Assad would go down as quickly as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and gave full support for the rebels. Many other governments made the same mistake, but the consequences of the failure of the insurgents to win a decisive victory is most serious for Turkey. Whatever Turkey thought it was doing in Syria, it has not succeeded with jihadi and non-jihadi fighters in Syria as frightened of each other these days as they are of the Assad government. The question is less about the departure of Assad as Syrian leader and more about the long-term survival of the rebels as more than a coterie of warlords.

The ability and patience of Erdogan and the AK party in gradually taking over the levers of powers in Turkey over the past 12 years is in marked contrast to the crudity of their policy in Syria and Iraq. Perhaps the best explanation is simple hubris stemming from Erdogan’s election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011, when he out-maneuvered the Turkish army which had been the nemesis of previous Islamic and democratically elected Turkish governments. But beyond the Turkish frontiers, his sure political instincts deserted him and he became the master of miscalculation, involving Turkey in a ferocious civil war in Syria and a near civil war in Iraq. Iraqi politicians were alternately bewildered and amused by Turkey’s blundering interference.

Turkey could have played a constructive role that would have much enhanced its influence and saved a lot of lives if it had taken a more neutral stance enabling it to mediate between different sides. Instead, it did the exact opposite, joining a coalition of Sunni powers of which other members such as Saudi Arabia were viscerally sectarian, and thereby ensuring that the Shia powers were alienated. Even within this Sunni coalition, Turkey is isolated because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and is paying a heavy economic price. Trade routes through Iraq and Syria have been cut and the UAE is reported to be cancelling a $12.5bn investment in coal extraction that would have provided 4,000 jobs. Investors in Dubai and Kuwait are wary of deeper involvement in Turkey.

The poison of sectarian hatred in Syria is slowly spreading into Turkey with the 15 to 25 million Turkish Alevi sympathising with their fellow Alawites in Syria.

Erdogan’s denunciations of the Alawite-dominated government in Damascus can seem as having implications for the Turkish Alevi who have long complained of discrimination against them by a Sunni state that denies them separate religious rights. This sense of discrimination still has a long way to go before it resembles the blood-drenched sectarianism of Iraq and Syria. But the potential for an explosion is growing and, once violence starts, it will be difficult to stop because the Syrian civil war gives a greater sense of crisis to Turkey’s other deep political differences.

Whatever happens, Turkey’s moment in the Middle East seems to be passing with strange speed and may be one of the great lost opportunities of regional history. The New Ottoman rhetoric, aside from forgetting how unpopular rule by the old Ottoman empire was among its subjects, now seems delusory. It could also get worse. Relations with Iran are showing slight signs of improvement but, if they were to deteriorate again, Iran would have an incentive to undermine any understanding between the Turkish government and Turkey’s Kurds. Erdogan will this week reveal what concessions he is willing to make to the Alevi and the Kurds, which will not be as much as they want but may be enough for them to feel they are making progress in acquiring full civil rights.

Erdogan’s blunders in the sectarian political swamp that stretches between Iran and the Mediterranean remind me of Tony Blair’s misadventures in the Middle East. Blair, like Erdogan, was a consummate politician on his home turf with sure political instincts and, again like the Turkish Prime Minister, won three elections in a row. He was accustomed also to dealing with US and EU leaders. But when it came to Iraq and Lebanon, his judgment deserted him and hubris misled him.

The picture Erdogan presents in his autobiography of Iraq post-invasion shows astonishingly little understanding of what was happening. Al-Qa’ida and Iran appear out of nowhere like aliens from a neighbouring planet, as agents of disruption. Erdogan, likewise, seems baffled about why his venture into the Middle East has gone so very wrong.
Source: by Patrick Cockburn, Independent On Sunday, September 29, 2013
Source Description: UK Sunday newspaper providing extensive coverage of domestic and international politics, economics and general news. Country of origin: United Kingdom
© 2013 Independent Print Ltd. All rights reserved

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