By Shane McGinley
Survey revealed adults want more regulation of violent and romantic content
Around 70 percent of Arab adults in the region believe governments should do more to censor violent and romantic content in films and TV shows, while the same number also believe they should be banned altogether if they are found to be offensive to local culture.
The 'Entertainment Media Use in the Middle East' survey, compiled by Northwestern University in Qatar in partnership with Doha Film Institute, found 69 percent of adults surveyed believed there should be more regulation of romantic content in entertainment, while 74 percent said there should be more censorship of violent content.
Despite this result, a look at the top ten biggest selling films in the UAE last year features adrenalin pumped action films such as Fast and Furious 6, Iron Man 3, Skyfall, World War Z and GI Joe 2.
The survey conducted 6,035 face-to-face interviews with Arab adults aged 18-years-old and over in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and the UAE and revealed that 68 percent of respondents also said they believe films or other entertainment programs should be banned outright if they are found to be offensive.
Last month, three Arab countries banned the Hollywood film Noah on religious grounds even before the movie’s worldwide premiere.
"Censors for Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) officially confirmed this week that the film will not release in their countries," a representative of Paramount Pictures, which produced the $125m film starring Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, told Reuters.
"The official statement they offered in confirming this news is because 'it contradicts the teachings of Islam'," the representative confirmed, adding the studio expected a similar ban in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait.
This was despite the fact that a 2012 Arab miniseries Omar on the exploits of a seventh century Muslim ruler and companion of the Prophet Mohammad managed to defy clerics' objections and air on a Gulf-based satellite television channel.
The controversial award-winning movie The Wolf of Wall Street had nearly a quarter of it removed by its distributor, due to more than two dozen scenes depicting sexual activity or illegal drug use. However, this was not ordered by the government and was self-censorship on the part of the marketing and distribution company.
Support for such moves and for further regulation and censorship varied from country to country but was expressed most strongly in the Gulf states.
In the UAE, where cinema attendance is the highest in the region, 74 percent agreed that entertainment content in the region should be more tightly regulated for violence.
Saudi Arabia registered the highest number of people who agreed that entertainment content in the region should be more tightly regulated for romantic content, reporting 82 percent of those surveyed, compared to a regional average of 69 percent.
In addition, 79 percent of respondents felt more should be done to preserve Arabic cultural traditions, while 70 percent conceded that more should be done to integrate their respective cultures with modern society.
“These apparently contradictory findings really are not, but reflect how the Arab world is coping with globalisation and still grappling to preserve local culture,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar.
“Understanding cultural attitudes around entertainment is as important to industry leaders and policymakers as viewership and other audience figures,” added Dennis.
When it comes to the entertainment on offer, 65 percent of Arabs said they want more content portraying their own culture and history.
"What we see from these numbers is a growing demand for locally generated entertainment. The findings reinforce the idea that nurturing a thriving creative industry in our region is vital to enabling the creation of content that accurately reflects Arab culture,” said Abdulaziz Al Khater, CEO of Doha Film Institute.
The top films watched here mirror the cultures of the people working here who far outnumber the citizens of the GCC. The Expats, myself included, would understand if we could not see what we want in order to comply with the local standards and traditions. We would not like it too much, but we are here to work, not to be entertained IMO.
If the issue is about TV, then why can't we have different timings for censored and uncensored content? Parents are the ones who should monitor their children not the media. The same goes for movies. Sometimes, the adult content is very crucial to the story line and it spoils the whole fun and logic behind the script when censored, especially in movies.
People who have objections with the censorship should just stop watching TV and stop going to movies!
Such hypocrisy!!! Cable TV is making millions out of subscriptions. why would "consumers"spend this much money when they are against the content.
We cannot preserve our culture by blocking the world. Why such insecurity?
Surely this 70% is just mouthing what they think the instigators wants to hear! Ask Europe or the US, same result, but deviants run the governments.
Among decent folk, obsessive and agenda based sexual indulgence so prevelent every waking minute in pop videos, along with the 'nothing but pornography' in movies depicted as art is surely abhorrent. Likewise, hideously graphic and absolutely unnecessary Hollywood violence everywhere, even in cartoons.
But worse are the bigots playing God and deciding for entire nations and indoctrinating the masses further with their own stifled agenda as they ban anything which might encourage one's mind to open up.
What is needed in this world, is education, teaching our young to think openly and decide for themselves; to know the difference between moral degeneracy and reality. Obsessive religious indoctrination, itself is rife with hypocrisy and self imploding and the 'biggest' market for for this abomination.
It is not a matter of "bigots playing Godâ€ as it is in the West. Here in the Gulf, we follow Godâ€™s rule that we should not encourage vice but rather encourage virtue. Hundreds of versus in our holy book tells us what are classified as vice and what are virtue and so those â€˜bigotsâ€™ are merely enfocing Godâ€™s rules.
If a priest in a church demoralizes a sexual scene in a movie does not indicate he is playing God. It indicates he has read his holy book and decided to advise people on what the Creator would not want us to indulge in. Simple as that. Nothing to do with being open minded or closed but is all about, what you have said yourself â€œtwhat is needed in this world, is educationâ€ and advise in part of educating the young on Godâ€™s will.
Enjoy your Bahrain visit, Jane.
And if you have objections with the government cencorship then you shouldn't be here.
@RAH, did you notice how different the understanding of god's words is in the various muslim countries?
some say women are not allowed to drive according to god, others happily allow women to drive - just as an example.
some say women need to cover their face but most muslim don't.
So please, don't claim that you would know the one truth - only god knows the truths. I believe, you are human? so it is your opinion.
do your prayers and follow your path to god - but don't pretend to know that answer for others.
@RAH - but surely it is more virtuous to consciously reject vice for yourself rather than have someone else do it for you?
There is nothing wrong with a priest or whatever condemning an immoral scene in a movie. However, surely it is then up to an individual whether they wish to expose themselves to immorality or protect themselves against it?
There is far greater glory in being surrounded by sin and refusing to be be brought down by it, rather than never having your faith tested and being insulated from sin.
Furthermore, who defines what is 'offensive' and who gives them the power to decide? What one person finds offensive, another may not - even if both of those people share the same religion. For instance, a Saudi may be offended by a movie that features a woman with an uncovered face - a Jordanian may not. Which one is 'right'?
You talk about more censoring for your TV there, but yet you have the Chanel fashion show? One brings money there, but the other? Same thing is shown on TV as at the expensive fashion show. Where are the morals there??? Seems really hypocritical to me.
we used to just laugh at the ridiculously childish censorship on arab TV - now we are tired of it and would like to see a US sitcom in its entirety rather than with huge chunks cut out because someone walked into a room and kissed another character on the cheek! All of a sudden there is different combination of characters, making no sense at all to the story-line, It probably wouldn't be so bad if the technicians knew how to edit professionally!