MBC head slams costly Arabic TV

CEO Sheikh Walid Al-Ibrahim warns broadcasters are being driven to non-Arab serials.
MBC head slams costly Arabic TV
By Talal Malik
Thu 22 May 2008 12:33 PM

Sheikh Walid Al-Ibrahim, chairman of pan-Arab broadcasters MBC Group, has warned that the "exaggerated" prices of Arabic TV serial programmes is pushing broadcasters to buy up non-Arab alternatives instead.

Al-Ibrahim, who heads The Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), said that Arab soap operas, particularly those with Arab celebrities, are grossly overpriced, reported Al-Arabiya News on Wednesday.

"I am delivering a straightforward message to Arab producers and telling them that if they insist on these exaggerated prices, MBC will take the initiative and look for substitutes," Al-Ibrahim said in an interview with weekly Arabic magazine, Laha ('For Her').

These alternatives included Turkish and Mexican soap operas dubbed in Arabic, which the channel has already bought and which have proven to be popular with Arab viewers.

"Audience ratings for the Turkish soap Sanawat Al-Dayaa ['Years of Loss'] are higher than the Egyptian series, which are sometimes produced for purely commercial reasons and are written and shot hastily, undoubtedly affecting the quality," Al-Ibrahim said.

"The Turkish series, on the other hand, has a well-knit plot that attracts the audience," he said.

MBC runs a mixture of news and entertainment channels like Al-Arabiya News, and is headquartered in Dubai Media City, UAE.

Some of its entertainment channels, such as MBC's English-language Channels 2 and 4, have been criticised by conservatives in the Arab world for promoting Western cultures and values, a charge which Al-Ibrahim dismissed.

"They have their lives and their traditions, and we have ours. We have to learn to understand and accept the other but this does not mean imitating it," he said.

Al-Ibrahim said that the group's highest audiences are in Saudi, and that sceptics who criticised the channel were a minority.

"Throughout 17 years, we have managed to win the trust of all echelons of the Saudi society - conservative and liberal," he said.

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