Broadcasters on the defensive in region
Published: September 15, 2008, 23:53 Riyadh: Arab media have reacted to the religious decree by senior Saudi cleric and Chief Justice Shaikh Saleh Luhaidan that TV station owners who broadcast immoral material can be killed according to Islamic law.
Arab TV producers aren't laughing.
"I haven't seen anything that approaches depravity," said Abdul Khalek Al Ganem, a producer of a comedy show on Saudi Arabia's more staid state-run Channel One. "There's dancing and things but that's been there for a long time, it's not new. Some dramas have discussed tribal extremism, but depravity, no."
The UAE last week pulled a Syrian serial, Sa'adoun Al Awajy, after Saudi tribal leaders complained that it was stoking ancient rivalries.
Saudi Arabia has had difficulty carving out a national identity since it was formed in 1932 as an alliance between the Saudi family and puritan clerics who administer Sharia law.
Saudi television critics have attacked what they called "foul language" in two Saudi comedies on pan-Arab entertainment channel MBC1 that air in early evening after the sunset prayer.
Arab comedy and drama is generally more tame than its Western counterpart, avoiding everyday street language, and this conservatism is even more pronounced in Saudi Arabia.
In one much-criticised scene on Bayni wa Baynak (Between Us), for example, one character insulted another by telling him he could stick his mobile phone chip "in your you-know-where".Soaps questioned
Odwan Al Ahmari, who writes in the daily Al Watan, said it was the religious media that was provoking clerics to attack the entertainment channels, which have bigger audiences.
"It's the fatwa programmes that are trying to stir trouble with the entertainment channels by asking these questions. The shaikh is bound to say these programmes are sinful," he said.
Popular Turkish soap operas dubbed into Arabic have provoked a storm of anger among Saudi conservatives who fear the spread of secular culture.They see Turkey as the West's fifth column into the Islamic world.
The attacks have raised eyebrows because the owners of Arab entertainment channels, including MBC, ART, Orbit, Rotana and LBC, are members of the Saudi royal family or businessmen allies. A spokesman for MBC declined to comment.
One TV official who did not want to be named said religious conservatives could not push back the tide in Arab entertainment television, which already pays attention to social and religious mores. "You can't put the consumer back in the box," he said.http://www.gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi_arabia/10245323.html